Western Painted Turtles – Nesting Sites

Western Painted Turtles – Nesting Sites

Submitted by Caroline Penn 

An early morning drop off at the Fulford ferry and return trip past Stowel Lake with the sun breaking through a cover of mist caused me to stop and explore the lakeshore, hoping for a few shots of the lake.  This little corner of the lake draws many swimmers on hot summer days but today with spring temperatures still cool enough for a morning frost I found a different attraction. On the short path to the lake I found several green cages housing the nesting site of local Western Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta belli).

On the Pacific Coast these turtles are red listed, endangered, species. The wetland habitat of muddy lakes and ponds where they remain dormant during winter months is increasingly rare. Females lay their eggs during the summer, up to 23 in a nest site, where they incubate until early fall (76 days). The tiny turtles remain in the nest, emerging once the warmer spring weather arrives. The proximity of the nest sites to roadways and lake trails puts these turtles at risk as they leave their nests and explore new habitat.

The Island Conservancy has an excellent article about these turtles with suggestions about how we can improve their habitat and chances of survival. eg. Avoid disturbance of nesting sites, ensure there are logs available for basking, and look out for baby turtles on the move when walking or driving near their nesting sites.

In Indigenous cultures turtles play an important part in stories of origin and creation and North America is known as Turtle Island.

I hope to return to this lake, treading cautiously and probably rerouting summer swims to avoid this important nesting site and hope to see the painted turtles, as we sometimes do, siting on logs and warm sunny spots in the lower mainland.

Read more about Western Painted Turtles at Saltspring Conservancy
See also BC Reptiles and Amphibians.
Here a few photos from the misty morning encounter.

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