Western painted turtle nesting is in full swing here in the Metro Vancouver Parks area, and so are the mosquitoes! The early rise of the river freshet means the mosquitoes are out in force, and about a month earlier than normal. Our nesting season started right on time in mid-May. So far we have observed and protected or removed 30 nests, which puts us in line for another very successful year in production from our wild population.
We have seen a good mix of previously marked females as well as new females showing up to nest for the first time. Due to high freshet early on in the nesting season the locations of activity have slightly changed and the turtles seemed a little bit confused. We would see them swimming out in the water and just watching us on shore. It seemed like they were asking “so where do we go now?!” Eventually they found alternative sites and there was a furry of nesting activity. Luckily we have very helpful landowners who grant us access to their entire property, even areas where the turtles don’t traditionally lay, which allowed us to move our work to follow where the turtles were finding suitable nesting areas. Once nests are laid the eggs are carefully removed and brought into the captive rearing program at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. Each egg has the female number recorded as well as the length, width and weight of the egg. This information will help us to correlate production over time for each female as well as assess the production of the population as a whole.
During our nesting monitoring we are also always observing and recording occurrences of other species at risk and rare species. We know our nesting site is home to beaver, otter, alligator lizards as well as rare Oregon forest snails. We were very excited to see another very rare species onsite, a rubber boa.
Our only previous recording of this species at this site was five years ago when one was found on the road having been hit by a car. This individual was again found roadside in the same location but unharmed. This species tends to hunt underground in small rodent tunnels, is not generally colonial and is not often found basking. As a result of these behaviours they are very difficult to find. Rubber boas also give birth to live young, no eggs, but only reproduce approximately every 4 years and take 15-20 years to reach maturity.