March is the calm before the breeding-season storm here at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. Steping back from our report writing and data entry, we eagerly await what spring has in store. At our facility we house a breeding population of Oregon spotted frogs, a juvenile population of Western painted turtles and a larval population of Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies.

Our frogs, who are native to this area, have bravely survived winter in their outdoor mini-ponds and are starting to exhibit breeding behaviour. During our daily checks, we recently have noticed these amphibians in a position called amplexus, which is latin for “embrace”. This is a breeding behaviour in which the male frog grasps the female from behind and holds on for dear life. Here, the male patiently waits for the female to expel an egg mass, which he will then fertilize externally. Sometimes, however, the frogs get overzealous and we will come across a “ball” of frogs. Part of our job is to give the lady’s a helping hand, ensuring only one male is holding on at a time. Even with this set back, we can are expecting to see egg masses any day now. This is very exciting news for the future of this endangered species.

A pair of Oregon spotted frogs in amplexus. Now we wait…
Sorry boys, this lady only needs one of you.

Back indoors, our juvenile population of Western painted turtles is bulking up for their release into wild wetlands. Many of these turtles hatched in summer 2019, and are not yet large enough for release. However, we have several individuals from 2017/2018 that overwintered with us and are ready to go! These turtles stayed with us over the cold season as they were not quite big enough to release last summer. This spring, any turtle who is 30 grams or more will soon be transported to various wetlands in the Lower Mainland. Wish them luck!

This little guy is ready for release!
Did you know that every Western painted turtle has an unique belly pattern? We keep a database with all these patterns which allows us to ID individual turtles!

Last August, over 900 Taylor’s checkerspot larvae entered hibernation under our care at the Greater Vancouver Zoo! As the days get warmer, we have started to see movement from these tiny caterpillars. We are now presenting them with fresh food daily and expect to see them eating any day now! As soon as they start eating, they will under go rapid growth and will soon be ready for release! Released as larva, they will pupate and complete their life cycle as a butterfly in the wild.

These Taylor’s checkerspot larvae are tiny! As the days get warmer they will start eating and growing rapidly!
An adult Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly from our captive bred population at the Greater Vancouver Zoo.

Spring is a very exciting time for those of us working with these endangered species. Every year, our hope for the future of these species is renewed as our dedicated team works to bring them back from the brink of extinction. Thank you for supporting Wildlife Preservation Canada!