Got turtles?

If you have turtles in your pond, wetland or other slow-moving water on your property, lucky you!

Both species of Oregon’s native turtles are uncommon, and it’s hard for them to find suitable habitat. You’ll want to make sure the conditions you provide for them stay suitable or even improve.

The Oregon Native Turtle Working Group has resources to help you!

What kind of turtles do you have?

In Oregon, we have two species of native turtles, the western painted turtle and the western pond turtle, and several species of non-native invasive turtles. Visit the Oregon Native Turtle Working Group website for turtle identification information.

Don’t have turtles, but want them?

It’s illegal to capture/relocate or buy turtles and turn them loose in your pond. Focus instead on providing suitable habitat – the “build it and they will come” approach. Turtles are very capable of and are known to make long-distance treks to newly created and enhanced habitats. In any case, improving habitat in and around your pond will make it more attractive to songbirds, dragonflies, frogs and other awesome creatures. You can’t lose!

See turtles? Report them.

Biologists are tracking locations of turtles (both native and non-native) in Oregon. Let us know if you spot turtles, whether they are on your property or somewhere else. You can report your turtle sighting at www.oregonturtles.com/report.html or www.inaturalist.org/projects/western-pond-turtles-in-oregon. The first step in making sure turtle populations remain stable is knowing where they are.

Get more information.

An abundance of information on how to help Oregon’s native turtles can be found in a free, downloadable publication by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife: Guidance for Conserving Oregon’s Native Turtles including Best Management Practices.

Ask for help.

If you have turtles on your property and want help improving conditions for them, email oregonturtles@gmail.com and someone will get in touch with you.

Western Painted Turtle on a log in the water

Western Painted Turtle, Photo by Port of Portland

Learn more about creating turtle habitat.  

Turtles have fairly simple needs, which you can help provide:

  • Basking areas

After spending the winter hibernating, turtles need to haul out of the water in spring and early summer to warm up in the sunshine. They often select downed trees or large tree branches that have fallen into the water. If there is no natural downed wood in your pond or wetland, consider adding some. Turtles like to bask on wood as they can quickly drop into the water to avoid predators.

  • Nesting areas

When it’s time to lay eggs, female turtles look for sparsely-vegetated areas that get plenty of afternoon sun, since the sun’s rays incubate the eggs. Suitable turtle nesting habitat has compact soils, usually with a high clay content to help the nest keep its shape and make it harder for predators to dig up the eggs. You can enhance nesting areas by providing patches of sparsely vegetated or bare ground in sunny areas close to your pond.

  • Food and hiding cover

Young turtles conceal themselves from predators in rushes, sedges, duck weed and other vegetation at the shallow edges of the pond. Turtles eat worms, aquatic bugs, fish and other high protein items that help them grow. All turtles snack on aquatic vegetation, so it’s important to have a healthy plant community in your pond. Native plants attract a variety of invertebrates which in turn become food for turtles. Some shrubby/forested habitat nearby is ideal as some turtles over-winter on land.

  • Minimal disturbance

Turtles, turtle nests and hatchlings, and even hibernating turtles, are sensitive to disturbances like pet dogs swimming in ponds occupied by turtles, kayakers getting too close to basking turtles, or mowing equipment coming too close to nesting turtles. Turtles will be more likely to use your pond if basking and nesting areas are a little more private and away from areas of regular disturbance.

This information was provided by the Oregon Native Turtle Working Group and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Download a fact sheet. 


Why did the red-legged frog cross the road?

volunteers-wait-at-the-roadside-in-case-theyre-needed-03march2014

Most rainy nights this year, volunteers have stood on guard at the edge of Highway 30 near Linnton.

TLC helps frogs cross busy Highway 30

By Allan Classen, NW Examiner, MARCH 2014 / VOLUME 27, ISSUE 7

Their mission? Save northern red-legged frogs, who are driven by nature to cross the four-lane highway to reach spawning ponds along the Willamette River. Without help, the frogs’ chances of evading traffic and getting across the highway are slim. That tendency, plus the fact that nearly every type of predator is after them, has led to their inclusion on the Oregon “sensitive species” list, one step above endangered.

Shawn Looney saw what could happen last winter and couldn’t take it. On her way to an evening meeting, she drove over clusters of frogs on Harborton Road, which leads to the highway.

“When she arrived, she was a little bit hysterical,” said Rob Lee, who like Looney is active in the Linnton Neighborhood Association. When they returned together to assess the damage, “She was even more hysterical. There were frog bodies all over the road.

“We counted 60 dead frogs on Harborton the next day,” he said. “They were just being slaughtered.”

If that could happen on Harborton, a narrow side road, what about Highway 30? Lee checked it out and found more of the same. He counted at least 100 in close proximity on the pavement.

“They were all being squished by vehicles,” he said.

A plan of action was needed. Last fall, Lee met with state of Oregon wildlife biologists, the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services and the West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District.

The chair of the WMSWCD, Jane Hartline, organized volunteers for the next breeding season, which runs roughly from early January to mid-February. The frogs don’t move until it’s dark, rainy and at least 45 degrees, they learned. This winter, a crew of crossing guards was ready for them. Hartline recruited about 35 volunteers, and many were on duty Jan. 7 when a huge migration—365 were counted—made their move. The volunteers soon learned that the frogs were “surprisingly compliant” and could easily be picked up and dropped in 5-gallon buckets.

“Mostly, they jump out on the road and just sit there,” said Hartline.

Alex Dolle gives a helping hand; photo by Jane Hartline

Alex Dolle gives a helping hand; photo by Jane Hartline

Still, when they come in waves, “It can be nerve wracking if you don’t have enough people,” said Lee.  “When it really happens, there are frogs all over the place.”

The loaded buckets were driven to a marina near the river’s edge, where the frogs lay their eggs. The tadpoles hatch and spend a few months growing before heading to the forest. Like salmon, they return as adults to lay their eggs in the place they were born. Some nights are too cold for the frogs, and on many nights, only a handful try to cross. But whenever weather conditions are right, volunteers gear up for a long wet night—sometimes for a few hours, sometimes past midnight. By mid-February, Lee said he had been out 23 nights. Getting the frogs to their spawning pools is one thing; getting them back come to the forest is another. Lee said he now sees frogs making the return trip.

Ultimately, a better way might be found. The volunteers, who include state wildlife biologist Sue Beilke, are carefully collecting data to understand their amphibious friends. A breeding pond on the forest side of the highway would be ideal, but finding a flat, open space to build such a pond may be easier said than done. A tunnel under or bridge over the highway seems far too expensive. So against all odds, rain or cold, the volunteers soldier on.

Hartline is particularly touched by the dedication of Beilke, who is out almost every night.

“Every time a frog is squashed, she says, ‘Oh no!’ which I love about Sue,” said Hartline.

Lee understands how the little creatures can grow on people.

“The frogs are very interesting and quite beautiful,” he said. “I’m amazed at how much personality they have.”

Their cause is also growing.

“I had no idea it would become anything like this,” said Lee. “It does touch a nerve with people. It’s been kind of inspiring.”

Neighbors know what’s going on and slow down near the crossing zone. He also gets plenty of ribbing about the frog migration assistance project, and he gets it. Some have suggested it could make a Portlandia episode.

“It’s pretty hilarious,” he said, “standing out in the cold and rain and waiting for frogs.”

 


Helping the Streaked Horned Lark

OPB’s Earthfix blog recently featured an article on efforts to help the streaked horned lark, a native Oregon bird species that is in in severe decline. With only 2,000 left, the streaked horned lark is a priority species for the Conservation District. The District endeavors to restore habitats of federal and state listed species, including state “sensitive” species and others in decline, as determined by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and other national and regional wildlife authorities, such as Audubon Society and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

This striking bird prefers open habitats such as prairies and beaches, and agricultural fields. Within our district, the streaked horned lark would be found on Sauvie Island and on beaches along the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. We encourage land managers with such habitats to help the lark using the following conservation tips:

  1. Provide open habitat on your land. The birds prefer low stature vegetation and areas bare of trees for nesting.
  2. Avoid management that will disturb the birds during their nesting season, e.g. mowing or plowing.
  3. Avoid the use of pesticides. Nestlings use insects as a food source and the young birds can easily fall prey to poisoning.
For more information on the bird, please visit ODFW’s page on the species.
Photo credit: David Maloney USFWS

We love bats

Small Yuma MyotisWhite Nose Syndrome has killed more than 6 million bats since 2006, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. It reported on a study that predicts the syndrome will virtually annihilate endangered Indiana bat populations throughout most of the bats’ range within the next decade. Learn more at SaveOurBats.org. Aside from disease, bat populations are also suffering from habitat loss, something we can all help with at home.

Bats play an important role in Oregon’s ecosystem eating nuisance insects that often disturb humans (think mosquitoes) and economically hinder farmers by damaging crops. Bats eat between 600-1000 bugs in an hour!

Here are a few things you can do to help bats on your land:

  1. Provide them a water source.
  2. Be sure they have lots of food available to them by having a thriving garden. Bugs need plants. And bats need bugs!
  3. Give them roosting habitat by leaving snags (dead trees) or installing bat boxes.
  4. Reduce your use of chemicals so that bug populations are high enough to sustain a healthy bat diet.

For more information on Oregon’s 15 bat species, click on the “Batty for Bats” Fact Sheet courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife:

Bats Poster

Other resource:

Center for Biological Save Our Bats Campaign

Feel free to share any bat stories or photos with us in our comments section, on our Facebook page or via Twitter.