HOME ON THE RANGE: THE WESTERN POND TURTLE
Last week we talked about the invasive pond turtle: the red-eared slider turtle, which is species introduced to our local ponds and streams by people dumping pets. This week we will be focusing on the Western Pond Turtle! Our very own local turtle, which inhabits the rivers and ponds of the West Coast of the United States. This little turtle (about 6-8 inches and 1-2.4 lbs) is currently considered threatened on the Endangered Species List.
One reason for this is because the red-eared slider is literally displacing them (red-eared sliders are bigger and more territorial so they can bully the smaller Western Pond Turtles out of the way). Western Pond Turtles are also dependent on the natural ponds, streams, and rivers. . . which aren’t that common anymore especially not after the drought in California. Basically, these turtles have a lot going against them from being illegally harvested as a food source to motor vehicles to the predatory bullfrog and even urbanization.
Why do their habitats matter so much? Western Pond Turtles rely on these aquatic habitats so they can have plenty of vegetation to eat and hide in, but also need exposed areas for basking in the sun. Like many animals, Western Pond Turtles also need protection for their young, even more so because it takes time for turtle’s shells to harden to protect them from predators.
Many efforts on the part of scientists and conservationists have been taken to study and to begin to help this native species of turtle. Some efforts include re-introduction, rescue, habitat development/protection and further monitoring and studying of these turtles!
We are still learning a lot more about the different types of Western Pond Turtle in fact. . . Recently scientists have been debating whether or not there are two or three total subspecies of the Western Pond Turtle. . . meaning that there could be even fewer of these specific types of turtles in the wild! A lot of this requires further research into the details of the turtle’s DNA and genome (or genetic makeup) what makes a Western Pond Turtle a Western Pond Turtle instead of a Red Eared Slider or a human.
Check out these sites below for more information about the Western Pond Turtle: