WV Wildlife: Spotted Turtle Research

Kevin Oxenrider, amphibian and reptile project leader for the WVDNR, uses telemetry equipment to track spotted turtles. (WCHS/WVAH)

They are cute, well-mannered and live a long time.

But unfortunately, it's those same qualities that have severely hurt the Spotted Turtle population through poaching and the pet trade.

That's why West Virginia DNR Wildlife Biologists are working hard, and researching these animals carefully across portions of the Eastern Panhandle.

"We are studying the spotted turtle, which is a priority one species of greatest conservation need here in the state of West Virginia. It is also a species that has been petitioned for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act", says Kevin Oxenrider, a Wildlife Diversity Biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

Trying to determine the turtle's movement and home-range is a big part of their research. The hope is to create a management plan to protect their wetland habitats.

To do this, wildlife biologists get a helping hand from technology.

"This is our radio telemetry equipment. This is the antenna, so this is what we're going to be using to try and pick up the pulse that's coming from the transmitter that's currently attached to the turtles that we have", said Oxenrider.

And as you would expect on a hot summer day with bright sun, you'll find most reptiles trying to cool off some--and that's exactly what these turtles were doing underneath the water.

Although the antenna can locate the turtles, it's still not the easiest to spot them! These are clever creatures, knowing that a sneaky skunk or raccoon could be nearby; most of these turtles were found hiding. Oxenrider found the first female turtle underneath some brush in the water.

"They are absolutely gorgeous animals, and you can see that spotting. I need to mark this area, so that we can make sure we have her GPS for the home range analysis", said Oxenrider.

After five of these turtles were tracked, they were placed back into their cool & cozy spot underneath the water.

Oxenrider says we owe it to the turtles to have their back; they are West Virginians, too.

"As West Virginians, we should be proud of our natural resources and our natural heritage--and spotted turtles are part of that, and we should be trying to protect them".

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