The last few days have been eventful. We finished up Musky Bay and Stuckey Bay with at least 25 males and females from each. These sites have the largest populations of our four sites and are the easiest to catch. We are still working on Billy Boy Flowage and Little Grindstone but don’t expect to finish before we leave this Saturday.
Over the next few days, we will focus on Little Grindstone. We pulled in our traps at Billy Boy and have captured a total of 16 turtles there. The turtles there are difficult to catch and we don’t expect to get many more.
Our recapture rates at Musky Bay and Stuckey Bay are both very good; 23.7% and 42.42%, respectively. The recapture rate is the percentage of individuals captured in a given time period that have been captured before in previous years. A good recapture rate is 10% so we are exceeding the rate necessary to obtain reliable data.
As always, feel free to leave comments or questions!
Saturday we took the day off for family events but Sunday and Monday have been great turtle-catching days! Yesterday we went to Stuckey Bay to try to catch the 11 males we need to finish off that site. We ended up catching just 7 but we expect to finish it in the next few days. We also repaired more traps yesterday and replaced them in Billy Boy this morning. Today we also went to Little Grindstone Lake. The weather was perfect but we still only managed to catch 6. Five of the 6 were recaptures from the last two years! We believe we have almost the whole population there tagged with microchips.
We also got to see a softshell turtle on E! She was basking on the road above a creek. Softshells are extremely rare to see above water, let alone basking on a public road. We were very excited but she ran into the water before we even got out of the car. Below is a picture from last year, when we caught a softshell at the Billy Boy Flowage.
Yesterday we went to Stuckey Bay and got 40 turtles! During a dramatic turtle encounter, Beth toppled her kayak but recovered quickly. We found out that the waterproof bags protecting our equipment work , at least! No turtles were harmed though Beth was very wet. We spent most of the day processing these turtles and released them in the evening. At the Billy Boy Flowage we caught a large snapping turtle in one of the traps and had to cut through the trap in order to release him. Today we got two painted turtles at Billy Boy and then captured 10 at Musky Bay. We spent most of the day repairing traps and nets and taking it easy.
We expect sunny weather the next few days so we are excited to possibly finish Musky and Stuckey Bay! The goal for each site (Musky Bay, Stuckey Bay, Little Grindstone, and Billy Boy) is 25 males and 25 females. Most populations are female-biased so we usually have to struggle to find enough males. But we are close!
-Gwendwr and Beth
We observed some parasites in several of the fecal samples collected from the turtles this year. Can anyone help us identify them? They are small, whitish worms with a pink tinge. They appear to have a sucker on one end and are about 1 cm long. Leave a comment if you know what they might be!
UPDATE: After encountering these little guys a few more times, we now realize they are baby leeches! Many of the turtles have adult leeches attached to them and some of the leeches have babies attached to their ventral surface. We rinse every turtle before placing it in clean water to collect feces, but we do not detach leeches. The ones pictured above came off after rinsing, leading us to believe they came from the fecal matter.
While researching this, I came across this cool radio program about leeches. You can listen to it here: http://www.heritageradionetwork.com/archives?tag=leech+reproduction . Scroll to the bottom and click Play.
The weather was windy yesterday but we still managed to catch 17 turtles in Musky Bay. We found one in the traps at Billy Boy in the morning and on our afternoon visit we got two more. On the dirt road to Billy Boy, we stopped for a nesting female painted turtle. We watched her for half an hour and then slowly made our way past her. They can scare easily while nesting and abandon their eggs uncovered so we were careful not to startle her. As we got close, we realized she was a turtle we’d caught two days before! She has a unique abnormality on the top of her shell (called the carapace) that caused two of the scutes to overlap.
Seasoned turtle hunters know that one turtle in a trap tends to attract more. Until recently, people assumed that swimming turtles would see the trapped turtles so approach them and then get trapped themselves. But recent research using covered traps found that even when swimming turtles cannot see the trapped turtles, they still approach- so the trapped turtles are communicating in some way. Scientists are now taking microphones underwater and recording turtle vocalizations! Most people know that many turtles can hiss but they also apparently talk underwater!
Today the weather prevented us from doing any catching but we did check the traps. Turtles are not very active in bad weather so we only caught one. In a break between storms, we helped our friend Kara Fitzpatrick collect data on the shoreline qualities of LCO. She is collecting information on the riparian buffer zones in the area to determine where runoff is most likely to occur. Check out her blog, hyperlinked above, to learn more or visit her at the COLA meeting this Saturday.
Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be great so we’re planning on heading out to Stuckey Bay! We’ll keep you posted!
We started yesterday on the south side of Musky Bay but soon kayaked to the northwest side where we hit the turtle jackpot! In just half an hour we caught 26 turtles! We only quit because our kayaks were full of containers.
We spent the next few hours processing them. We found that 50% of the ones we caught were recaptures from the last two years! Everyone looked healthy and well. We released them that night.
We also went to the Billy Boy Flowage and set up five traps to catch turtles there. We checked them this morning and found a lot of fish and one male turtle! Since turtles aren’t active at night, we didn’t expect a huge catch but are looking forward to checking the traps again this afternoon.
Today we also went to Little Grindstone Lake and caught four turtles. We saw many more basking but they were skittish and swam away before we got close. The four we caught were all recaptures!
We had a visitor from the woods while we worked. A garter snake came by after just eating a meal. You can see it in his stomach.
-Beth and Gwendwr