Written by Jack McCarthy
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 00:00
Carrie Milne-Zelman, Aurora University associate professor of biology, demonstrates how she uses radio telemetry equipment to track Blanding's turtle species in Kane and neighboring counties during a presentation last week. Photo by Jack McCarthy.
Farmland, suburban development and too many people makes one local species SCARCE
It’s tough being a turtle.
It’s even harder for Blanding’s turtles, a species once common to Kane and surrounding counties.
Blanding’s turtles have steadily disappeared as farmland displaced prairies followed more recently by suburban sprawl.
Carrie Milne-Zelman, an associate professor of biology at Aurora University, is trying to help save this endangered species.
But first she has to find them.
The turtles migrate from one wetland location to another to lay eggs and habitats are difficult to locate.
But using radiotelemetry equipment purchased through a state grant, Milne-Zelman has been able to glue tiny transmitters on the few Blanding’s turtles she’s found and track their movements and study where and how they live.
Milne-Zelman talked about her efforts during a presentation last week at Aurora University.
Blanding’s Turtles are a medium-sized species located generally in the Great Lakes region and a few sites on the East Coast. The turtles, who live as long as 80 years, have a spotted shell and feature a bright yellow throat and chin.
But development over the last century has limited their natural wetland homes. Water diverted for farms first altered their habitat and more recent suburban development has further narrowed their options.
“These turtles were here first and then we moved into their area,” she said. “It’s not just habitat loss, it’s habitat alteration, too. Most of the area around here were prairies and wetlands. You don’t see prairie anymore, that’s gone. And the wetlands aren’t even there either.”
The highly-mobile turtles must contend with vehicle traffic as they try to cross roads, raccoons are particular enemies who scoop up and eat Blanding’s turtles eggs.
People aren’t helpful either.
“(The turtles) seem to constantly be smiling,” she said. “They may or may not be happy but people see those smiles and some love to collect them as pets.”
Milne-Zelman said she hopes efforts with forest preserve officials in Kane and nearby counties will help locate Blanding’s turtles and find ways to help conserve this species.
“Blanding’s turtles are the barometer of the quality of a habitat,” she said. “Surveys, monitoring and research is essential into figuring out how to save this species,” she said.
--By Jack McCarthy
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 13:57