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PHOTOS: New generation of turtles emerge from the nest

Western painted turtles are beginning to leave their winter homes at Elizabeth Lake
Grade three and four classes at Gordon Terrace Elementary School visited Elizabeth Lake for Turtle Day on Wednesday afternoon. They were able to observe juvenile turtles swim in a small aquarium - an activity lead by community volunteer Susie MacDonald (Gillian Francis photo)

Cranbrook residents and local schools spent an afternoon learning about western painted turtles at Turtle Day on April 26.

Hosted by the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program and the Rocky Mountain Naturalists, the event gives the public an opportunity to see juvenile turtles as they emerge from their nests at Elizabeth Lake.

The naturalists collaborate with biologists working for the Province of B.C., to collect data on the turtles and protect them from predators like skunks, and traffic on Van Horne St. South. Western painted turtles are a blue-listed vulnerable species and without human intervention, they would lose 90 per cent of their nests to predators.

The turtles hatch in August, but they remain underground all winter and do not emerge until the spring. As soon as warmer weather arrives, they uproot themselves from their winter homes and make the long 50 metre journey towards the water. They are vulnerable to predation during this time, so the Rocky Mountain Naturalists dig up the turtles and bring them to the water.

The juveniles on display were among 17 live turtles that were dug up and shown to the public, before being released into the water. More turtles will continue to emerge in the coming weeks.


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Greg Ross and Katrin Powell with the Rocky Mountain Naturalists used a large box of sand to demonstrate how western painted turtles lay their eggs (Gillian Francis photo)
(Gillian Francis photo)
(Gillian Francis photo)
Children wandering along the dock at Elizabeth Lake and searched for food that the western painted turtle eats. The turtles are omnivorous and enjoy munching on snails, tadpoles, aquatic insects, algae, earthworms, submerged vegetation, fish and carrion (Gillian Francis photo)
(Gillian Francis photo)
Angus Glass with the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program provided some fun facts about turtles. Did you know that western painted turtles can live for more than 40 years in the wild or that the sex of turtle hatchlings is determined by the temperature of the nest (cool produces males and warm produces females)? (Gillian Francis photo)

About the Author: Gillian Francis

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