Pilot project keeping tabs on Scanlon Creek turtle population

Pilot project keeping tabs on Scanlon Creek turtle population

BRADFORD – There’s an art to capturing turtles in the wild.1297864224184_ORIGINAL

Zach Bogar, of Scales Nature Park in Oro-Medonte Township, donned a wetsuit and stepped into Scanlon Creek in an effort to catch turtles for an ongoing pilot project at the Conservation Area north of Bradford on Saturday, Aug. 6.

He was joined by a group of volunteers, members of the Friends of Scanlon Creek, and Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Area staff, who helped spot six turtles in the murky water.

But Bogar, sinking quickly into the muddy creek bed, only managed to nab two.1297864223414_ORIGINAL

All were native painted turtles. While Bogar plunged into the water, Scales teammate Kaitlyn Hall took measurements, counted the number of “scutes” or scales, noted any irregularities or identifying marks, then used a file to create a unique series of notches at the edge of the shell, that will make the turtle identifiable to future researchers.

It doesn’t hurt the turtle, Hall explained.1297864223781_ORIGINAL

“It’s kind of like filing your nails, but it will be an important part of an ongoing study, into the health of the Scanlon turtle population, » she said.

The Scales Nature Park researchers shared information on native turtles, and how to tell “boys from girls” (the “boys” have much longer front claws, and a longer tail) before releasing the captured turtles back into the wild.

Native turtle species face threats that range from predation and loss of habitat, to vehicular traffic in turtle crossing areas, and pressure from invasive species like the Red-eared slider, a non-native turtle often sold as a pet that some owners mistakenly release into the wild.

LSRCA staff had spotted a Red-eared Slider at Scanlon, and a nesting site. The site is cordoned off to prevent predation, and caged to keep any hatchlings from heading to the water. The nest is being watched to see if the eggs will in fact hatch this far north, said Bogar.

« If they do, we’ll be a little more concerned and make every effort to catch the invaders, removing them to Scales Nature Park, » he said.

Scales is a 21-hectare conservation area and educational centre and is open to the public during the summer, that is dedicated to the preservation of Ontario’s amphibians, fish and reptiles.