Volunteers keeps eggs out of harm's way
by Debi McCarthy
From the April, 2014 issue
Turtles survived the comet that killed the dinosaurs, only to be imperiled by sand volleyball players. The volleyball court is where a snapping turtle laid her eggs a couple of years ago in Scheffler Park. The year before, one nested on the park's ball diamond, between second and third base.
So last year, the city's Natural Area Preservation program gave snapping, painted, and red-eared slider turtles a safer option: artificial nesting sites in Scheffler, Bandemer, Dolph, and Gallup parks. Look for the three-feet-tall mounds of sand and mulch with the "Do Not Disturb" signs.
From late May through mid-July, female turtles emerge from the water in search of soft, loose soil to dig a nest and lay ten to 100 eggs (depending on the species). They cover the nest and leave the baby turtles to hatch on their own two to three months later. According to NAP herpetologist Patrick Terry, "turtles face a lot of predation on their nests from raccoons. And also because their habitat is really fragmented, there aren't a lot of places for them to lay their nests." Even those that hatch and make it to adulthood often are killed crossing roads to nest, so turtle populations are declining.
At NAP's turtle steward program kick-off on April 13, Terry will teach volunteers to identify six local turtle species and the slight depressions and claw marks that indicate a turtle nest. Stewards will weed the mounds, monitor them for nests, and install square wooden boxes covered with mesh to protect the eggs from raccoons and other predators. The volunteers will also patrol roads to identify turtle crossings and count and monitor turtle populations.
NAP asks that people call them at 794-6627 if they see a turtle crossing a road or nesting. Terry and the volunteers will then install turtle crossing signs or transplant eggs from vulnerable nests to help more turtles hatch--increasing the chances that at least a few snappers may live thirty to forty years.
[Originally published in April, 2014.]
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