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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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May 05

Turtle Tuesday: Protecting Native Turtles on Mt. Tam with a New Turtle Study Program

Posted on May 5, 2015 at 3:05 PM by Emma Detwiler

Last week MMWD aquatic ecologists began a turtle study in the Bullfrog arm of Alpine Lake in an effort to learn more about the native western pond turtle’s (WPT) nesting activity, as well as help to remove non-native species that threaten the WPT’s survival.

Turtle Study Traps
 Turtle traps at Alpine Lake in place and ready.
By trapping and removing non-native turtles such as red-eared and Cuban sliders, the WPT will have less competition for food and nesting areas. This will help ensure the turtles have a home on Mt. Tam for years to come. The non-native turtles that are caught in the turtle study traps will be transported to the Bay Area Turtle and Tortoise Rescue in Castro Valley for rehabilitation and re-homing.

The prevalence of non-native turtle species on Mt. Tam is likely due to well-intentioned pet owners releasing their turtles “into the wild.” While this may seem to be a good option for a turtle you can no longer care for, it is harmful to native species and impacts the ecosystem of the watershed in a profound way.

Sky Oaks Turtles 
 Cuban slider turtles awaiting relocation.
Western pond turtles that are captured in the study’s traps will be transported to MMWD’s Sky Oaks facility where they will be identified by species and sex, measured, and recorded. Native WPTs will be checked for marks or given a unique identifying mark.

Any pregnant female WPTs will be fitted with a GPS transmitter before being released so their nesting activity can be monitored by the ecologists. After processing and attaching transmitters, all western pond turtles will be returned to Alpine Lake.

Check back next Tuesday for another turtle-related post, and please remember to re-home your pet turtles responsibly!


James Parham
December 18, 2016 at 4:57 AM
Hi, I am a herpetologist that works on slider turtles, and have even trapped them in Cuba. I am really interested the report of Cuban slider turtles at Mt. Tam. Is there any way I can get in touch with the aquatic ecologist there?

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