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And Turtles Too!

April 5, 2013
Enjoying the sun

Enjoying the sun

Last weekend was amazingly sunny and warm.  It was almost sun-bathing weather. So of course I went in search of turtles.  I had to wait until later in the afternoon when the small pond I visited  had been in full sun for awhile but eventually I spotted him – a small Painted Turtle warming in the sun. This was probably a male Painted Turtle: they are much smaller than the females. Later this month, if the weather is warm and sunny, the logs and branches on the edges of the pond will be crowded with turtles all jockeying for the best position.  The “cold-blooded” turtles rely on the sun to raise their body temperature.  But a good turtle sunning spot must not just offer sun – it must also offer a good escape route.  A turtle needs to be able to slip quickly into the water when danger comes.  Then, where there had been a log full of turtles,  you will see only rings of tiny ripples in the water and maybe a turtle head or two peeking out of the water.

trying to cross the road

trying to cross the road

Not many areas along Kootenay Lake are occupied by turtles.  In fact, Painted Turtles in Interior B.C. are a Species of Concern and are Endangered on Coastal B.C. and in their more southern habitat.   Painted Turtles need muddy banks where they can burrow down into the mud well beneath the ice to hibernate over the winter. They also need lots of vegetation in quiet waters for feeding on plants and small crustaceans and muddy areas on shore in which to lay their eggs.  Much of the Kootenay River is fast moving water along rocky shores but there are a very few small ponds that still contain Painted Turtles.   The Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area is a major home for turtles. Every spring the management area  puts up the “turtles crossing the road sign” to warn drivers to slow down and watch for the turtles crossing the road. The females make the trek from the marshes to sunny muddy soil to dig a hole in soft ground for their eggs. Crossing the road can be dangerous for a turtle. Pulling your head and legs into your shell may work in surviving a hungry coyote, but not against a speeding car or truck. Once her eggs are laid and covered with earth, the female makes her way back to the marsh and the eggs are on their own.  Coyotes, raccoons, and other predators often feast on the eggs.  Once the young turtles hatch they scramble their way to the marsh and begin their lives in the water.

Turtles do indeed hide in their shell. I watched a staring match between a small turtle and a Great Blue Heron one day. The heron finally struck.  It had the small turtle in its beak but could neither swallow it nor get into the shell. It dropped the turtle who then promptly disappeared into the water.  Score one for the turtle!

Painted Turtles

Painted Turtles

Big Old Female Painted Turtle

Big Old Female Painted Turtle

Painted Turtles

Painted Turtles

Hanging out

Hanging out

all photos and writing copyright Joanne Siderius

4 Comments
  1. I just love turtles! These are wonderful photos!

  2. They are cool. Nice to see them doing what they do best!

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