The Western Painted Turtle is British Columbia’s only native turtle species and it’s faced with a problem. Habitat loss, destruction and degradation is a major factor in placing this gentle reptile on both a federal and provincial list of species of special concern. And although Revelstoke’s seasonally moist climate is an ideal area for nesting and habitat creation, it is at the most northern end of their North American range – therefore, requiring just a tad more perseverance for survival than their southern counterparts.
So the Okanagan Nation Alliance approached the NCES with a solution: let’s restore some ecologically significant nesting habitat to high suitability for our little hard-shelled friends.
Site restoration will take plenty of work. Setting up turtle exclusion fencing to allow for the current year’s hatchlings to exit the site, but refraining potential mama’s from entering, introducing logs and anchoring them into the marsh for basking purposes, removing substrate and vegetation so nestlings are free to exit the site when it is time to do so, building retaining walls, providing new and clean nesting substrate, levelling the site, creating “benches” to increase potential nesting areas, and trimming of selected tree tops and limbs to allow for sun and light which will increase soil temperature. All of this compensating for habitat which was lost during road construction.
Progress and successes can be tracked with reports and studies post completion of the project; however the social, economic and environmental benefits of this project are of considerable significance. High value turtle nesting habitat can be improved by up to 33%, encourage upland habitat restoration projects, it’ll build a collaborative relationship with the NCES, ONA, the City of Revelstoke, and other interested parties; furthermore, it will help integrate traditional Sylix perspectives into the care and management of an important and highly-visible local wildlife species.
With support from the NCES, ONA, other potential funders and granters, local businesses, volunteers, and like-minded individuals, a project of this magnitude seems feasible and if we are able to proceed we can hope to see an increase in Western Painted Turtle populations as soon as Spring 2018.