They are amphibious, camouflaged, armoured and they live in the woods on Canadian Forces Base Gagetown. But they are vulnerable. The wood turtle is being set up to be protected at the military base.
Recently, a federal law was passed saying any big land holder has to assess that land to look for species at risk and if necessary, develop a protection plan. The army has hired two researchers from the University of New Brunswick to look for shells on the base, turtle shells not ordinance.
Vanessa Roy, one of the researchers, explains how she and her colleague Glen Forbes, look for wood turtles. "We start by a search around the 10-metre edge, pretty much look for turtles. If we find one, we go about marking it to find out which turtle is which and if we found it before and then go back to doing a habitat plot."
When a wood turtle reaches three or four years, it has very few predators. But the difficulty with the wood turtle is that it travels more than any other turtle and that means it often heads in the direction of one it's worst threats, man.
At CFB Gagetown, that means trucks, soldiers, tanks and artillery shells. Most wood turtles are killed while crossing the road. They are on the endangered species list in the United States and their numbers are slipping in Canada.
Roy and Forbes record the habitat of the wood turtles, count them and track them with radio transmitters.
Noah Pond, the base's Environmental Compliance Officer, says, "The idea is to learn what the wood turtle does, as well as the other species, and then integrate military training. Where is the wood turtle at certain times of years and basically avoid those areas."
This restricted army base may have to set aside a restricted turtle base, to make it safe for the wood turtle to, well, come out of its shell.