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Turtle Roundup at Eagle Bluffs

Published on: Nov. 14, 2013

permanent part of their body and a source of protection from their environment, can be soft or hard, and either round or an elongated oval shape. Although the color of their upper shell (called the carapace) usually helps them to blend in the murky wetlands bottom, on many species the lower shell (called the plastron) can have patterns full of red, yellow, and black designs.

The most fearsome of the turtle species found at the area is the common snapping turtle. These animals can weigh up to 35 pounds, and can easily snap up birds, small mammals, and other aquatic reptiles with their strong jaws. Red-eared sliders are the most common turtle at Eagle Bluffs CA. There are also painted turtles and false map turtles. A less-common aquatic turtle is the spiny softshell, which has a leather shell instead of a hard, bony one. The three-toed box turtle is found at Eagle Bluffs CA, but that land-dweller is not caught in the hoop traps. Species of turtles on other conservation areas around the state vary, so other managers have different challenges.

THE VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE

Turtle trapping at Eagle Bluffs during the summer months is hot and sticky work. Vic sends emails to volunteers notifying them of turtle trapping dates and always reminds them to “wear clothes you don’t care about.” He then takes groups out in the wetlands area to either place traps or to check traps, mark turtles that were caught, and then release them back into the area. This gives him a better idea about where turtle populations are concentrated.

To set traps, volunteers travel deep into the wetland area and wade into a pool of murky, muddy water. The traps, called single-throated hoop nets, are then strung between two poles and hammered into the wetland’s bottom to keep them from falling over. Volunteers place the traps so they do not sag or sink under the surface of the water. If the trap is completely submerged, there is a risk that captured turtles will drown due to lack of access to air. The traps are then baited with Asian carp provided by the Conservation Department’s Fisheries Division and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Columbia Environmental Research Center.

Once successfully placed in the water, the traps are left overnight and checked early the next morning. As turtles are removed from the trap, volunteers record each animal’s gender, species, trap location,

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