Blanding's turtle rescue efforts continue
The latest effort to save the Blanding's turtle, an endangered species in Nova Scotia, began Tuesday at Acadia University in Wolfville.
A group of 70 Blanding's turtles being raised in captivity were pulled out of hibernation early to give them more time to grow before they are released into the wild.
"These are endangered species and a lot of hatchlings," said Lilanne Arsenault, a graduate student of biology at Acadia University. "They're pretty much the future of this population so it's a big deal."
Last week, Parks Canada awarded Acadia a $74,580 contract to raise the Blanding's turtles and help strengthen the population at Kejimkujik National Park in southwestern Nova Scotia.
Only 400 of the turtles are left in the wild in Kejimkujik, after 15 years of fighting to save them by scientists, students and volunteers.
"These turtles are meant to be released back into the wild in Keji in a year and a half," said Arsenault, gesturing to the hatchlings in her care.
Tom Herman, vice-president academic at Acadia University, said keeping the hatchlings in captivity for the next year in warmer temperatures should make the turtles stronger and better able to fend off predators.
"They would like to get them to the size that's a little bit larger than the gape size of a raccoon," he said. "They fare much better once they're released."
In the spring of 2009, Parks Canada staff removed all the eggs from half the Blanding's turtle nests at Kejimkujik. That summer, floods destroyed the remainder of the nests.
Herman said it will be decades before scientists know whether this latest effort to save the turtle will work.
"Turtles do things slowly," he said. "It takes these turtles 20 years before they reach sexual maturity. So whatever we do today, we'll see the impacts 50, 70, 100 years down the road."