Thursday, May 29, 2008

Catch and Release

On the morning of January 19th I read a news story about a creature known as the Northern Red Bellied Cooter - which was purportedly inhabiting the site of the proposed casino in Middleboro.

Intrigued, I spent the rest of the morning reading up on, then blogging about the cooter, whose northernmost habitat stretches up into Bridgewater - my neck of the woods!

After the article, the blog and the cooter controversy which followed, the entire family became interested in the endangered little turtle with the funny name. And in the months that followed we learned of several local headstarting programs which remove cooter eggs from the nest, raise them until they are just large enough not to make for an easy snack for fellow forest-dwellers, then release them back into the wild. My son even chose to do a school project on the NRBC!

Yesterday my friend Frank sent me a heads-up from Mass-Wildlife that this Monday there will be a cooter release, open to the public, in Middleboro! For anyone who also has become enamored of the NRBC, this would be a great opportunity to see the rare species up close and to help it get gain a stronger foothold in our region. Hey, maybe we'll even see you there!

Here's the details:

MassWildlife Advisory

Monday, June 2, 2008—Turtle Release in Middleboro 10:30 AM. Media and interested citizens invited to assist biologists release turtles.

BACKGROUND: Hatchling Northern Red-bellied Cooters (turtles) were removed from the wild last fall and placed with partnering educational and scientific facilities from across the state to accelerate growth and reduce mortality during a turtle’s first year of life. Raised in warm aquarium environments with unlimited food, these turtles grow quickly and are no longer as vulnerable to predation when released the following year. The process is called “Headstarting” . Cooperating partners will be bringing approximately 150 headstarted turtles to MassWildlife’ s Field Headquarters in Westboro for final weighing, measuring and shell marking. Release will take place at Great Quittacas and Pocksha Ponds in Middleboro on Monday, June 2 at 10:30 AM.

Originally, known as the Plymouth Red-belly turtle, Northern Red-bellied Cooters are classified as endangered species at both the state and federal level. These turtles are Massachusett’s second largest freshwater turtle, behind the snapper, measuring up to 12 inches in shell length and reaching weights of up to 10 pounds. They are only found in the Plymouth County region of southeastern Massachusetts, completely isolated from other populations found in the mid-Atlantic states. They are named for their coral-red plastron (underbelly of shell).

Only a few hundred adult red-bellied cooters were believed to exist in the Commonwealth in 1984. Low survival rates of eggs and hatchlings are a factor limiting the species’ population. Turtle nests are plundered by scavenging raccoons and skunks, while quarter-sized hatchlings emerging in late summer face a gauntlet of predators such as fish, frogs and wading birds, not to mention ever-encroaching residential development complete with kids, pets and cars, all of which spell death for the tiny reptiles.

Habitat management efforts have been initiated with area landowners on lakes and ponds where turtle nests have been located and protected. Over 2,000 turtles have been released through the Headstart program since it’s inception since the mid-1980’s. At least three headstarted turtles are known to have nested in this time period.


Long Point Road, Middleborough: From Rte 495 take Exit 4 for Rte 105 south. Follow 105 through Lakeville center and past Assawompsett Pond on left and stay straight when Rte. 18 turns to the right. Take left on Long Point Road and follow across causeway between Pocksha and Great Quittacas ponds to meeting/release site.


Anonymous said...

This is so interesting, we're ready to be foster parents.
Thanks for the information!

marion said...

What so few understand is that diversity is key to environmental protection. When the environment is no longer fit for the littlest critter, it's no longer fit for humans.

Anonymous said...

Great story in the Enterprise.
I hope you'll do a follow-up.