Turtle Roundup at Eagle Bluffs
I feel the weight of the water pressing against me, and my feet sink deeper into the muddy wetland bottom with each step. Frogs croak, birds chirp in the trees, and dragonflies zoom around my ears, but I don’t have time to watch the wildlife around me. I volunteered to help trap turtles, and the mud, waders, and heavy poles I’m carrying to anchor the net trap make the morning an adventure.
I am one of many volunteers helping Vic Bogosian, Department of Conservation wildlife biologist and manager of Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area (south of Columbia), with his turtle trapping research project. Most management activities at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area (CA) are focused on other animal residents, but a life-long passion for herpetology inspired Vic to study these unique creatures.
CATCH, TAG, RELEASE
From April to September, Vic traps turtles to collect population information. To help him with this endeavor, members of the community make their way through mud, weeds, and water to set traps and mark turtles. It’s a varied group: Girl Scouts, members of the Missouri Master Naturalists program, students from the University of Missouri Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society, the University of Missouri Herpetological Society, the Conservation Honors program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and anyone interested in conservation. Trapping is difficult, sweaty work in the summer, and volunteers often leave dirty and exhausted, but all are excited by the opportunity to handle and observe these animals.
“Little did I know what an educational opportunity this was going to be,” says Chris Egbert, a regular turtle trapping volunteer and a Missouri Master Naturalist of the Boone’s Lick chapter. “I have marveled at Vic’s skill in working with the different types of volunteers working on this project.”
As manager of Eagle Bluffs CA, Vic makes decisions that help keep conditions ideal for migratory bird populations. However, it is his responsibility to take all wildlife species on the area into consideration. Similar to migratory birds, aquatic turtles need access to appropriate water levels, temperature, food, and vegetation for cover. The goal of his turtle trapping program is to see how his management decisions affect turtles, and how to make beneficial decisions for them.
Turtles are complex creatures. They feed on a variety of foods including aquatic plants, insects, snails, crayfish, and dead animals. Turtles can vary widely in appearance based on species. Their shells, which are a