Protecting the Painted Turtle

When flipped on its belly, the Painted Turtle’s (Chrysemys picta) crimson markings define its underside. Yellow stripes striate its head and neck. Any wetland creature peering skyward while underwater is in for a visual treat – witnessing the Painted Turtle swimming its colourful plastron towards sun-soaked heated rocks will brighten any light-streaked waters.

Painted Turtles may be seen skimming the surface of shallow ponds as they feast on freshwater insects, snails and tadpoles, or, you may get a glimpse as they bask their bodies on lakeshore logs or rocks.

However, despite aesthetic appeal, the Painted Turtle still has many natural enemies. Coyotes, badgers, skunks and ground squirrels keep the turtle population down by scavenging their leathery white eggs while nested.

Unfortunately, predation and (more importantly) the ever-looming impacts of humans on Painted Turtle habitat has shelved these turtles as a provincially blue-listed Species At Risk (SAR). Like many SAR plants and animals, the Painted Turtle requires a living space (wetlands and ponds) that is easily marred by human activity.

Direct development and its side effects are causing Painting Turtle populations to dwindle: development of roads and increased traffic mortality, wetland pollutants, trampled nest sites or general disturbance by the public.

If you’re interested in seeing the Painted Turtle, just outside of Nelson at Grohman Narrows you may be lucky enough to witness several basking in the sun by one of the ponds. If you do visit, remember to respect their space.

It is important to learn about the creatures that are threatened by our presence. Identifying and protecting important ecological habitat is essential in continuing British Columbia’s plant and animal biodiversity.

This article was written by Emily Nilsen, TLC’s Terrestrial Stewardship Advisor in the Kootenay Region, and appeared in the Nelson Express newspaper on the importance of protecting habitat for plants, animals and natural communities. If you would like more information, please don’t hesitate to contact Nilsen at enilsen@conservancy.bc.ca or 250-354-7345.