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Spring Means Spotted Turtles

Spring Means Spotted Turtles

     I feel I spend more time in meetings and behind a computer screen than I ever have prior to this in my career.  While this is a good place to be during the winter months, I begin to lament it as the weather begins to break and spring approaches. So when the Zoo’s conservation biologist Dr. Matt Cross indicated he was heading into the field to survey for Spotted turtles the last week of March, I was pleased to see I had nothing pertinent on my calendar. I was going to take full advantage of this opportunity to assist. 

Female spotted turtle.

     For me nothing signifies the beginning of spring as much as the early season Spotted turtle work we do here at the Zoo.  So I happily put off a little work to do some field work.  Soon Matt and I found ourselves walking across one of the many beautiful wet meadows located in western Lucas County.  This is an area we have marked many Spotted turtles in over the last two springs, and we frequently recapture marked animals.  Although this particular morning was still cloudy and cool, Matt quickly found a male spotted turtle in the shallow water.

     Spotted turtles revel in the morning sun. Being ectothermic they must warm up prior to beginning the day’s activity. While we were out, we also set out to remove a radio transmitter from male spotted turtle we had followed for the last two years.  This portion of the study was completed and the battery on the transmitter was soon to fail.  Our previous experience indicated this turtle would also be in this wet meadow.  Using radio telemetry it did not take Matt long to find our “old friend” underwater under a pile of dead vegetation.  The transmitter was removed and this individual was sent on its way, although I’m sure we will be seeing this individual again each spring, even without the aid of radio telemetry. Although it wasn’t a super productive day in the field it was very nice to get out of the office, enjoy the weather and interact with one of my favorite turtle species in the field again.

Typical spotted turtle habitat.

By Kent Bekker

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