The freshwater ecosystems of B.C.’s Lower Mainland have been severely impacted by pollution, runoff, climate change, invasive species and large numbers of predators such as raccoons. At least one species native to the area, the northern Pacific pond turtle, has already disappeared from Canada, while others have dropped to such low numbers that their only hope of surviving rests on direct, hands-on conservation.
The recovery plan for Oregon spotted frog calls for conservation breeding, headstarting and release to re-establish viable populations in at least six sites. Wildlife Preservation Canada began coordinating these efforts in 2010, adding a conservation breeding program to the headstarting work taking place at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. This expanded on the breeding efforts underway at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Meanwhile, an ongoing mark-recapture program and extensive egg mass monitoring by our recovery partners is tracking the success of this initiative. Young are being used both to increase the size of existing wild populations and to establish new ones at appropriate sites where the species had been lost.
In 2012, we expanded our work to include the western painted turtle. In order to save this population, experts recommend protecting nests, artificially incubating eggs, headstarting young turtles for release and establishing a conservation breeding program.
Accordingly, we began salvaging western painted turtle eggs from nests at high risk — such as those on gravel boat ramps — and headstarting them. We also began collecting adults found living alone or in such small groups that effective breeding was unlikely. These turtles form the nucleus of a conservation breeding population. We headstart hatchlings for at least a year, until they are too large to be eaten by their major predators: bullfrogs that have been introduced to British Columbia. We also take in sick and injured western painted turtles for rehabilitation and release.