Although these reptiles were once common in southern British Columbia, not a single Pacific pond turtle has been spotted in Canada since 1959.
The Pacific pond turtle’s scientific name derives from “marmor,” the Latin word for “marble.” It’s fitting, given the marble patterning on their shells. And while those shells are a drab olive, the personalities of Pacific pond turtles can be quite colourful. They’ve been known to get feisty and aggressive, bullying younger, smaller turtles off sun-soaked logs or rocks they have their eyes on. At sunrise, Pacific pond turtles look for algae, plants, insects, crustaceans, fish, frogs and even dead animals to eat. Male and female Pacific pond turtles are similar in size and can live more than 20 years in the wild.
The Pacific pond turtle makes its home in slow-moving streams, large rivers and swamps, looking for deep pools with plenty of woody debris to hide from predators. In drought conditions, Pacific pond turtles can survive by moving to ponds that still have water and lying dormant in the mud. During the winter months, they hibernate on the bottom of ponds or in nearby woodlands.
In the mid-1800s, the Pacific pond turtle was a familiar sight in the ponds and lakes of southern British Columbia and Vancouver Island and along the west coast as far south as California and Mexico. In the U.S., they ranged as far inland as Nevada. Currently, this species is no longer found in Canada.
Prized for their meat, Pacific pond turtles were decimated by commercial harvesting in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Today, agricultural and urban development continues to threaten their habitat.
Recommended Recovery Actions
According to the federal Recovery Strategy, recovering the Pacific pond turtle is not yet feasible either technically or biologically. However, as the populations of these turtles in Washington State grow thanks to recovery efforts there, there may be potential to translocate some to British Columbia, where they could be reintroduced to the wild or used to begin a conservation breeding program. The strategy also notes the possibility of discovering B.C. Pacific pond turtles that have gone undetected so far.
What We Are Doing
The Pacific pond turtle is on Wildlife Preservation Canada’s priority list for potential future action, and the techniques we are developing to save western painted turtles could help Pacific pond turtles in the future. In the meantime, find out how we help other reptiles and amphibians in Canada, and how you can make a difference.