Project plans to bring back Blanding's turtle

April 21, 2008 3:54:02 PM PDT
Have you ever heard of a Blanding's turtle? They used to flourish in Midwest marshes and wetlands, but are now in danger of extinction in Northern Illinois. The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive, in Lincoln Park is working in conjunction with the DuPage Forest District to save a disappearing turtle. The Blanding's turtle used to be almost as common as mosquitoes in a swamp, but now these creatures in a shell are losing their fight to survive. They are threatened in northern Illinois.

"It's not perilously close to being extinct yet but it is heading in that direction and if we don't try to do something to correct that it will eventually go extinct," said Celeste Troon, Mgr. Living Vertebrate Collections.

The museum is raising three 1-year-old Blanding's that will head back to nature later this year. But it won't be easy to reverse the downward trend.

"There are more predators for turtles. Things like raccoons and possums than there were originally. And there are other things we don't usually think of as predators ... like cars," said Doug Taron, Curator of Biology Peggy Notebaert Museum.

These turtles will have a better chance of survival because they'll be larger when released.

"It's called headstarting and basically that means feed them, nurture them for the first two years and then release them back into the wild," said Troon.

One of the interesting aspects of this project is that the turtles are being raised inside a marsh-like enclosure. Museum visitors can see them, but they can't see us. They're surrounded by one way mirrors.

"The idea is that the young hatchlings don't get to used to seeing people. So when they're released into the wild they will still have some natural fear of people," said Troon.

Sometime before the end of the year, the turtles will be outfitted with tiny radio transmitters. Then they will be set free. And, then they will tell us their story.


Load Comments