Submitted by Columbia Wetlands Stewardship The partners
The Western Painted Turtle (WPT) – Intermountain – Rocky Mountain population (Chrysemys picta pop. 2) is the only freshwater turtle species native to British Columbia and is on the province’s Blue List. Turtles need heat from their surroundings to thermoregulate. They must actively seek warm microhabitats and bask in the sun to raise their body temperature, which is especially important in the spring and fall when ambient temperatures are low. Sun exposure can occur several times a day, usually for several hours from sunrise (before feeding) and sometimes again in the afternoon and evening.
Turtles need features for basking such as logs or other surfaces they can easily climb on and warm (by thermoregulating) their surroundings. Sun exposure is an obligatory part of a turtle’s life story, and the lack of woody debris is a problem for turtles. The sun raises a turtle’s body temperature to an appropriate level, which is necessary for foraging and mating. The increase in body temperature also helps the turtle digest its food, provides an essential source of vitamin D, and helps reduce ectoparasites on the turtle’s body.
In 2021, the Lake Windermere District Rod & Gun Club engaged in part of the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners (CWSP) Western Painted Turtle Project and placed lizard logs in ponds where the lizard logs were lacking or were scarce (determined by CWSP inventory work in 2020). A lack of pilgrimage sites in some areas of the Columbia Valley could force turtles to compete with predators or other larger animals such as skunks or dogs which are also more aggressive than turtles for pilgrimage sites. .
The main objectives of the basking turtle component of this project are to improve turtle habitat by designing and installing lightweight and natural-looking pilgrimage structures and by studying turtles’ pilgrimage habits and preferences. . Rod & Gun members of the Lake Windermere District created basking logs from cedar utility poles donated by BC Hydro. The posts had their ends cut off at an angle for turtles to climb on, and the top was flattened slightly for lounging. Anchor bolts were placed on each log and an anchor was attached. Cement blocks were used to anchor the logs in place, which were donated by Barry Brown-John.
The ponds selected this year for the sun log deployment were Dorothy Lake, the pond under Canfor Radium Mill (just above the trail along Horsethief Forestry Road) and Armstrong Bay in Columbia Lake. Placement of the logs occurred during the time periods that would least disturb the birds. Since there is some discrepancy regarding the placement preference for the WPT, some logs have been tied to the shore and others have been left floating in shallow water.
The project biologist (Rachel Darvill from Goldeneye Ecological Services) is overseeing the project and you can contact her with any questions at [email protected]
The Rod & Gun Club would like to thank BC Hydro, Barry Brown-John, Richard Halverson (for welding the anchor bolts together), Rona, CP Rail and the club members who contributed to this Sun Log project.
The CWSP’s WPT project is part of the larger Kootenay Connect project, the goal of which is to maintain biodiversity in local landscapes by focusing on habitat connectivity within and between valley floors and mountain ranges to maintain exceptional places of biodiversity. Kootenay Connect is funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) through the Canada Nature Fund, with matching funding from local partners.