Turtle Survey at Spring Lake, Texas

 Snapping Turtle

 Red-eared Slider

 

How we captured, measured, weighed, and collected data on the turtles:

I just returned from an exciting trip to Texas where we were invited to participate in a turtle survey at the small lake at my Son’s house in Arlington, Texas. I learned a lot in the process and thought you would love to see how it was done.

The girls around the lake have a club that is interested in studying and preserving wildlife. Three of the turtle specialist from the university there came to show the girls and the rest of us how to conduct a scientific survey of turtle species. They plan to follow up this study with future visits to the lake.

It all began late in the afternoon. Many traps had to be set up and baited. We had to punch holes in plastic bottles and fill them with bait: sardines, chicken liver, chicken legs, chicken breasts, various kinds of fruit, and more. Each bottle then had to be placed inside the nets and hung so they could attract turtles.

Next, the nets had to be placed in the water. It is important when setting nets to keep the top part out of the water so the turtles can come up and take a breath and not drown. Here are some pictures of the process: The girls used kayaks and well as waded in the water to get them in place.

Once the nets were in place it was time to wait. The girls had a camp out by the lake and got up early the next morning to inspect the traps.

Early risers with their turtle pajamas.

The first turtle found in a small net was Cracker. This turtle was the rescued turtle that helped the girls get in contact with the turtle experts. The turtle was near death when first found last year and it was captured and rehabilitated and returned to the lake where it is thriving. Good thing the girls found it before it died in the lake.  It’s interesting that this turtle was the first to be captured in the survey.

This is Cracker. See the broken shell on the left side by the head.

Next, they pulled the other traps. They found two more turtles, both snappers.

Collecting Data:

Once the turtles were captured and placed in containers, it was time to do the measuring, weighing and examining of the turtles. The girls recorded their data in small field logs indicating the species, whether or not they were male or female, their weight, the measurements of their carapace length, width and depth. They also measured the plastroms and checked the female to see if she were carrying eggs. No eggs were found. The two larger snappers were both males. Calipers were used for the measurements.

After measuring, the shells were inspected for damage and any markings. We discovered some of the turtles were missing claws on their feet and others had part of their shell damaged. This data was recorded using the turtle shell maps given the girls for this purpose.

Releasing the Turtles:

After all the data was collected the turtles were released back into the lake and were rewarded with all the left over bait. It was fun to watch them crawl back into the water and know they were living in a safe place where they would be appreciated.

The Celebration:

After all the excitement it was time to celebrate with turtle pancakes for breakfast. 

Clean Up, Clean Up, Everyone Lend a Hand:

After the celebration all the equipment had to be gathered up to be taken to the next survey over at the river. Many hands made light work.

Thank You to Our Leaders:

We would like the thank all the people from Texas Turtles who helped us, especially Viviana Ricardez  , Andrew Brinker, Carl J. Franklin, our turtle experts. We would also like to acknowledge all the residents of Spring Lake who helped set up this adventure and Calvin and Danae and Barbara at whose house we did the survey.

We learned a lot and have a deeper appreciation for these reptilian creatures.


2 thoughts on “Turtle Survey at Spring Lake, Texas

  1. This is SO cool, Dad. What a great experience learning all about those turtles. Thanks for all the pictures and reports. We loved your explanations! Love that you guys got to be there.

    Like

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