News

Public invited to Turtle Day at Cranbrook's Elizabeth Lake

Western Painted Turtle considered a vulnerable species

CRANBROOK — How does a turtle survive a long winter in the B.C. interior? This, and other questions, will be answered as the public gets to hang out with Western Painted Turtles, and the biologists who know them well, at Elizabeth Lake on Wednesday, May 14.

The first-ever Turtle Day, which runs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., is being hosted by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP), with support from the Rocky Mountain Naturalists. The public is invited drop in and learn more about the amazing Western Painted Turtle and, perhaps, get up close and personal with a turtle hatchling or two.

"The Western Painted Turtle has a fascinating life cycle and has evolved some extraordinary adaptations to survive in this area, especially given our long winters," says FWCP-Columbia program manager Trevor Oussoren. "The event is a great opportunity to share this information so that we can better understand the natural history of this Blue-listed, or vulnerable, species."

The FWCP in the Columbia region is a partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of B.C., First Nations and the public to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by the construction of BC Hydro dams. Wetlands are among FWCP's priority habitats for attention, and previous projects have helped improve turtle habitat near Revelstoke, Nelson, Baynes Lake, Argenta and at Elizabeth Lake.

The event will feature information, displays, and spotting scopes, and will provide a chance for residents to talk with biologists from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations about Painted Turtles and other species that reside in and around, Elizabeth Lake.

Art Gruenig, a Rocky Mountain Naturalist member who was named Cranbrook’s 2010 Citizen of the Year, will be on hand to show the turtle nesting grounds. An if timing is right, there may be a few freshly-hatched turtles.

Gruenig has been monitoring and protecting the nesting area for more than twenty years and takes extreme pride in trying to give the adults and hatchlings the very best opportunity to survive and thrive.

“We are hoping to show the public some turtle hatchlings, but Mother Nature might not be on our side this year,” said Gruenig. “In the 20 years I have been monitoring the turtle nesting grounds, I have never seen the water levels as high as this and, right now, about two-thirds of the nesting area is submerged.

"At this stage we do not know what impact this might have on the survival of the hatchlings.”

If you're interested in learning more about, or joining, the Rocky Mountain Naturalists contact Lois Gruenig at 250 426 8349.

For more information about Turtle Day or the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, call 250 352 1300 or email fwcp@bchydro.com.