Turtle Census 2011
In summer 2011 the Virginia Living Museum continued our census of the basking turtles in our lake. We chose six dates during the summer to conduct this project. We set out live traps to collect the turtles and waited for a few hours while the turtles inspected the traps and eventually were caught in them.
As we did last season, students learned about turtle identification, biology, behavior and threats to these animals prior to each trapping experience. With the help of the curatorial department, the herpetology department and the aquariums department, students received mini-seminars each evening about a different aspect of turtle life. Students then assisted the staff with the retrieval of the traps, the removal of the turtles from the traps and data collection.
Each turtle was measured, identified and marked. To mark them we filed a small notch into the shell which corresponded to a number code. Once we collected all the information and determined whether the turtle was a male or female, we released it back into the lake.
At the end of the summer we collected 1 red eared slider (which are non-native to our area), 1 eastern painted turtle, 1 yellow bellied slider, and 3 northern red bellied cooters.
We did on occasion catch snapping turtles in our nets. We removed them safely and quickly, releasing them back into the lake. We did not collect data from those animals.
It was interesting to note a change in our collection from the previous year. Last year we found that the non-natives were the front-runner in our pond. Yet this year we did not find this at all. Additionally, we discovered fewer turtles this year as compared to last. We do not have enough information to determine why this was.
We will continue this project, and have already incorporated new elements into next year’s study. We are looking forward to working with the students again and discovering more about basking turtles.
If you are interested in participating in 2013, please email Susan Summers or call 757-595-9135 (Education Reservations).