If you build it, they will come: wild turtles get a pond makeover
Not just a motto for baseball enthusiasts, those words inspired wildlife biologist Laura Guderyahn and her team last winter as they built and installed basking structures for endangered northwestern pond turtles in 10 Yamhill County ponds.
The northwestern pond turtle, also known as the western pond turtle, is listed as an endangered species in Washington and a critical species in Oregon.
“In Oregon, pond turtles are in decline, so it’s pretty rare to find them,”Guderyahn said. “And there are many areas of the state where nobody’s ever looked for them.”
Guderyahn thought a survey of Yamhill County would help conservationists plan for the future of pond turtles, so she teamed up with the Oregon Zoo to put out a “call for ponds,” seeking area property owners who might let biologists survey their land. The ask was an overwhelming success — Guderyahn and her team surveyed 32 properties and returned in January to place basking structures in 10 different ponds in the hopes of boosting turtle populations throughout the region.
“Turtles need to be up in the sun basking for six to eight hours a day,” Guderyahn said. And since many ponds on private property no longer have basking habitat, due to erosion or landscaping, she lends a helping hand by installing floating platforms for the turtles to use.
After placing the structures in January, Guderyahn and her team returned to the ponds several times this summer to observe the turtles. At one site, up to 20 northwestern pond turtles were seen basking at once. Guderyahn is hopeful that turtles will find the platforms and continue using them for years to come.
Video of the project can be found at bit.ly/turtlemakeover.
For more zoo animal stories, visit oregonzoo.org