Turtles on the Move!

ODFW Conservation Biologist Susan Barnes releases a native Oregon western painted turtle. -Photo by Rick Swart, ODFW

ODFW Conservation Biologist Susan Barnes releases a native Oregon western painted turtle. -Photo by Rick Swart, ODFW

There are a lot of animals you’ll probably keep an eye out for this summer – bears, wolves, mountain lions – but turtles? Unlikely. However, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking that you keep both eyes open for these pokey little amphibians this summer, as the females are on the move.

According to ODFW Northwest Region Conservation Biologist Susan Barnes, female turtles are more likely to be spotted on land during the summer because they leave the water to lay their eggs. In the past, turtles have been spotted on hiking trails, roads, in campgrounds, in parks, and even in people’s yards. They may be slow, but when it comes to laying eggs, they sure are determined.

“If you see one, the best thing to do is let it continue on its path,” Barnes said in an ODFW press release this week. “Don’t try and return it to the water.”

Oregon is home to only two native turtle – the western painted and the western pond. Both are protected by law and have populations that are in decline, mainly due to habitat loss, illegal collecting, disease, competition from non-native turtles, and the degradation of nesting areas by invasive plants.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what you can do to help Oregon’s turtles. Well, aside from not running them over or taking them home, Barnes suggests reporting turtle sightings on the Native Turtles of Oregon website. This helps conservationists like herself track populations of both native and invasive turtle species.

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