Turtle Project Results

Monitoring turtle distribution and nesting success helps determine trends and improves management and conservation efforts. Below are summaries for two turtle species the department is currently monitoring.

Spiny Softshell Turtlespiny softshell turtle

State Threatened

The Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera spinifera) is a medium to large aquatic turtle found in Lake Champlain and the lower reaches of some tributaries with concentrations occurring in Missisquoi Bay and the Lamoille River. It was state-listed as threatened in Vermont in 1987, nationally listed as threatened in Canada in 1991 and as threatened in Québec in 1999.

 

Threats to Population

  • Direct loss and degradation of habitat
  • High predation pressure on eggs and young
  • Human disturbance

Monitoring Results: 2017 Nesting Season

  • 337 hatchlings emerged from 39 nests not destroyed by predators
  • 9 Spiny Softshell Turtles kept over the winter in captivity at ECHO were released in June.
  • 132 live hatchlings and embryos not yet ready to emerge from underground nests were recovered. Some were given to ECHO for care over the winter and spring (head starting) and the rest were released into Lake Champlain. The unhatched eggs/embryos were incubated and later released into the lake.

Download Spiny Softshell Project Summary for 2017

spiny softshell turtle nesting graph
spiny softshell turtle nest success graph

download spiny softshell turtle nesting data

See also:

Vermont Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle Recovery Plan

Vermont Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle Life History

 

Spotted Turtlespotted turtle

State Endangered

The Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) is state endangered and a species of regional conservation concern. It is small (shell usually less than five inches long), has yellow spots on a dark shell, and lives in shallow wetlands. It takes eight to ten years for a Spotted Turtle to reach maturity, and they may live as long as 60-100 years.

Spotted turtles are known from three locations in Vermont. Two of the sites are compromised by surrounding landuse. At one site, a railroad bisects the wetland. Twenty under rail crossings have been installed to allow safe passage of the turtles. A road parallels much of the other compromised site. Both are believed to have very small populations.

The third known site is more robust and found within a large wetland complex, which provides some buffering from surrounding landuse.

Threats to Population

  • Habitat loss and alteration
  • Isolation of populations
  • Road mortality
  • High predation pressure
  • Collection of wild turtles as pets

Monitoring Results: 2017 Nesting Season

  • Spotted Turtle sites in southeast Vermont were visited several times during 2017. No Spotted Turtles were observed. The 13 nesting pits created along the railroad line where kept clear of vegetation. No turtle nests or signs of nest depredation were found.
  • A female Spotted Turtle was observed in a remote section of a wetland complex in southwestern Vermont. This is the third Spotted Turtle documented at this wetland complex and all have been females. 

    A radio tag was glued to her carapace (top shell) and she was released. Staff returned twice during the nesting season but did not locate a new nesting area. Staff later located her back in the area of the wetland where she was first encountered and continued to locate her radio signal in the same general area of the wetland on subsequent visits. Staff last determined her location in late October and believed this might be where she would overwinter underwater.

    Staff plan to visit the wintering site in the spring to determine if the turtle is still carrying a radio tag and hopefully locate some other Spotted Turtles that might share this site.

Download Spotted Turtle Project Summary for 2017

See also:

Nongame Wildlife Fund - Donate Today

Contact Us

Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife
Commissioner Louis Porter

1 National Life Drive
Fish & Wildlife LogoDavis 2
Montpelier, VT 05620-3702
802-828-1000
fwinformation@vermont.gov

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