Cranbrook, BC (June 16, 2016) – Thanks to a successful turtle overwintering pilot program this past winter, biologists with VAST Resource Solutions are currently undertaking a turtle capture and relocation program for Idlewild Lake. Discussion and guidance on the overall approach was provided by biologists with the BC government.
The City engaged VAST to develop and implement the relocation plan for the Western Painted Turtle population at Idlewild Lake. All three agencies worked together to develop an approved plan for the full relocation, which started in earnest in May this year. To date a total of 99 turtles, including some hatchlings have been captured and relocated. Painted Turtles are remarkable in that eggs laid at this time of year hatch in the fall, but the young remain in the underground nest over winter and are able to withstand freezing. The next spring, the toonie-sized baby turtles emerge from the nest and make their way to the water.
“Nearby waterbodies were assessed for habitat suitability and the presence of existing turtle populations,” says Leigh Anne Isaac, Senior Wildlife Biologist with VAST. “Our guidance was to relocate turtles in suitable areas with either nonexistent or small populations of turtles in order to minimize potential disease transfer and genetic mixing in the receiving water bodies. Kettle Lake was the only viable opportunity we were able to identify for translocation.”
In October 2015, three adult turtles were captured, radio tagged and relocated to Kettle Lake as part of the pilot relocation project. All turtles overwintered successfully and this location will now be used as a permanent relocation for the remaining turtles.
The Western Painted Turtle is BC’s only native freshwater turtle species and is considered a Species at Risk. They are provincially blue listed and federally a species of Special Concern. They form a key part of wetland ecosystems and resonate with children and adults alike. “It is encouraging to see the City take such well-planned and comprehensive actions to ensure the impact to Idlewild turtles are minimized,” says Isaac.
“The relocation of the turtles in one part of a larger puzzle,” says Chris New, Director of Leisure Services for the City of Cranbrook. “The end result is the preservation of Idlewild Lake and improvement to numerous recreational opportunities for park visitors.”
Monitoring for additional turtles will continue in Idlewild Lake into the drawdown period later this summer. The City has also installed structures to enhance turtle basking habitat at Kettle Lake and will be augmenting existing nesting habitat adjacent to their new home.
Work on replacing Idlewild Dam is tentatively expected to begin in late July.