Blanding’s turtles, like the one pictured above, are a type of semi-aquatic turtles and are listed by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife as a threatened species.
At the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord, biologists work through all four seasons to protect the lives and nesting sites of the 11 juvenile turtles and 14 adult female turtles monitored at the wildlife refuge.
Pictured is turtle #3300, first marked in the 1980s. Blind in one eye from an infection it had a few years ago, this female turtle is estimated to be over 50 years old. Next
In the winter, the turtles are brumating — the reptilian version of hibernation — and spend the winter underwater, where they look for well-hidden places like root mats.
They can still move about slowly under the ice, but their bodies pretty much shut down with very low metabolisms. Next
Still, winter is a dangerous time for turtles. They can run out of oxygen under the ice and drown-- a phenomenon called “winter kill.” Drowning especially occurs in shallow water where there may be many organisms, such as fish and aquatic insects, competing for the limited supply available in the crowded space. Next
The 25 Blanding’s turtles that are under watch this winter at Great Meadows have been fitted with a transmitter so researchers can track them.
The transmitters are glued onto the turtle’s carapace, the top part of its protective shell, and are about the size of a nickel, only thicker, for juvenile turtles, and slightly bigger than a AA battery for adults. Next
Biologist Bryan Windmiller, of Grassroots Wildlife Conservation Inc., has overseen the Great Meadows Blanding’s Turtle Conservation Project, an effort to boost the reptile’s population, for the past decade.
Pictured: Windmiller dialed a radio frequency into a receiver and hed an antenna above his head, moving it slowly from side to side and listening for a telltale beep. Next
Each turtle is radio-tracked one time over the winter.
During warm weather, researchers capture turtles three times, measuring and weighing them, taking notes on their health, and changing transmitter batteries when needed.
Another reason for radio-tracking turtles is to follow adult females to their nesting sites in spring. Next
Great Meadows’s sprawling wetlands preserve covers 250 acres between Billerica and Wayland.
But Great Meadows refuge’s turtle cohort has declined sharply since 1971, from an estimated 135 adults and older juveniles to around 60.
The primary goal of Windmiller’s conservation project is to help the population recover to at least the level of the 1970s. Back to the beginning
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