Lake Champlain Spiny Softshell Recovery

Quebec’s Lake Champlain is home to a small population of spiny softshell turtles — a population isolated enough that it requires its own recovery efforts. Like other spiny softshell turtles, this population faces nest predation and human disturbance. However, their nest sites are also more prone to flooding events, which submerge entire nesting sites and drown eggs, decreasing the chances of survival even further. Find out more about this species.

The Quebec recovery team, created in 1997, has laid out a recovery strategy that includes monitoring adult females, locating hibernation and nesting sites, protecting or acquiring land where possible and creating new basking and nesting sites. Since 2009, the Granby Zoo has been implementing this strategy by maintaining and monitoring a prime nesting site, salvaging eggs, incubating them and releasing the hatchlings.

We were asked to support the Zoo’s program through the 2014 and 2015 seasons. During this time, program staff attended our knowledge-sharing workshop on freshwater turtle headstarting, launched a new study in which some of the hatchlings would be held back and headstarted for one year before release and expanded their maintenance and monitoring efforts to a second nesting site.

During our two-year participation in the project, 260 hatchlings were saved and released into the wild, and the program was expanded to include new research and site monitoring.

Intervention to improve the reproductive success of the spiny softshell turtle population in Lake Champlain is essential to its recovery. Because spiny softshells take at least ten years to reach sexual maturity, nest protection, headstarting and related research efforts must be maintained over the long term. Our support helped the Granby Zoo sustain and grow their vital recovery program, improving the spiny softshell’s chances of surviving in the wild in Quebec.

Since 2013, Louis Lazure has been part of the Research and Conservation Department at the Granby Zoo. Louis decided to become a biologist during an eye-opening school trip to Costa Rica. He obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Université du Québec à Montréal, a Master’s degree in International Ecology from Université de Sherbrooke and a Master of Science in Biology from Western University.

His education included studying the impact of tent-making caterpillars on aspen stands in eastern Canada’s boreal forests, investigating the role of peccaries in the Brazilian rainforest and researching bats in Ontario, Florida, Taiwan and Belize. He is currently a member of the provincial bat and spiny softshell recovery teams in Quebec.

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