In cooperation with Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and John Carroll University
In 1999, a small population of the Blanding’s turtles was found at the Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation. Blanding’s turtles are listed as endangered or threatened in several states, and the Ohio Division of Wildlife lists them as a “Species of Special Concern” indicating that further loss in numbers could lead to higher protective status. Less than 10 populations occur naturally in Ohio.
In cooperation with the Zoo, a program was initiated to increase the OEC population as well as develop methods for potential reintroduction to other areas. For the past several years, work has centered on studying the biology of a population of Blanding’s turtles at Sheldon Marsh, about 60 miles west of Cleveland, to learn more about this species biology. Turtles have been equipped with radio transmitters to track movements, allow recapture, and locate reproductively active females as part of a dietary and reproduction study.
Non-destructive sampling of recaptured turtles indicates that their diets consists primarily of snails but also include beetles, water bugs, fish, tadpoles, and crawfish. This is contrary to reports from other states that indicate a diet rich in crawfish. Observed nesting behavior also differs from other reports. Nests are shallower and the process takes longer, possibly because of the high silt and clay content and high compaction of the soils at Sheldon Marsh.
Newly hatched young at Sheldon Marsh are outfitted with transmitters to track movements and document predation. Young hatchlings also have been reared at the Zoo as part of a “head-starting” program to provide larger individuals for reintroduction at Ohio and Erie Canal Reservation in hopes of lowering rates of predation.
To date, over 30 individuals have been released at OEC, many with transmitters to follow their movements and survival. Several turtles have been recaptured five years after their release indicating that survival is good.