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Stark Parks to breed ’threatened’ spotted turtle to help boost wild population

Patricia Faulhaber
Suburbanite correspondent
Spotted turtles are listed by the state of Ohio has a threatened species. Stark Parks will breed a few of the turtles that have been rescued from the illegal pet trade to help boost the local wild population.

PERRY TWP. For those who love to visit the Stark Parks Wildlife Conservation Center to see and learn about the wild animals that live among us, get ready for an interesting exhibit as Stark Parks will soon be hosting a breeding population of spotted turtles that have been rescued from the illegal pet trade.

The Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) is a freshwater turtle that inhabits shallow wetlands in the East Coast and Great Lakes Region. In early spring, they migrate to wetland sites to breed. These breeding sites usually contain clean shallow water with a mud bottom and ample aquatic and emergent vegetation. The turtles become active very early in the spring and can be found basking on logs, grass clumps or swimming in shallow water.

Mating occurs in late winter and early spring, with eggs being laid from late May to early June. During the summer months, the turtles bury themselves in muskrat burrows or leaf litter. During fall months, the turtles return to their for a short period of activity before overwintering.

Each turtle has a unique pattern of yellow spots on its limbs and top shell. The number of spots can range from zero to 100.

“We are hoping to get the turtles here in the next 12 months, said Stark Parks Natural Resources Manager Talula Wiater said. ”Spotted turtles are listed on the IUCN Redlist as endangered as their population has decreased worldwide to below 50 percent.

“As for the federal listing of spotted turtles, they are not listed. And they are listed as threatened on the state level. Stark Parks is working in conjunction with member organizations of the Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity (LEAP). They are dedicated to the protection and restoration of biological diversity in our region. LEAP members have formed the Save and Protect Ohio Turtle Diversity (SPOTD) committee.”

Wiater said the goals of this committee are to:

• Increase survivorship of turtle hatchlings

• Repatriate populations of this threatened species in protected habitats within Northeast Ohio

• Increase recruitment of these animals into the adult populations

• Educate the public and involve local academics through research

Stark Parks will breed the turtles in partnership with the Spotted Turtle Project to boost the wild populations and provide more genetic diversity. The spotted turtle population has fallen because of loss of habitat, pollution, predation and illegal poaching for the pet trade.

Once the turtles arrive at Stark Parks, they will be housed in the turtle pond that is located at the Wildlife Conservation Center. They are expecting to get between five and six turtles that were confiscated from the pet trade and genetically linked to the region.

Visitors to the Wildlife Conservation Center will be able to observe the turtles once they arrive.

Spotted turtles can be found in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. In Canada, the spotted turtle are found in Ontario and Québec.

More about spotted turtles

Below are a few helpful links for those would like to learn more about the spotted turtles.

https://www.leapbio.org/resources/spotted-turtle

https://www.fws.gov/international/cites/cop16/spotted-turtle.html

https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/4968/97411228