Big Season For Georgia’s Smallest Turtle



Drought in the mountains the past two summers dried up much of the suitable habitat for bog turtles, but thanks to wet weather, increased trapping and improved management efforts, 2010 is looking like a record season for the smallest of Georgia’s protected turtles.

Federally threatened and listed as endangered in Georgia, bog turtles are rare in much of their native range due to loss of habitat. Researchers know of only 67 turtles in the state, 16 of which were released from a “headstart” restoration effort. With increased trapping efforts this year, 40 percent of the known bog turtles in Georgia were captured and released during the monitoring season.

Trapping allows biologists to monitor populations, find new ones and collect egg-bearing females for the headstart program.

In the past, trapping was limited to 30 traps. Efforts were ramped up in 2010 when help from a State Wildlife Grant that provided funding for more traps and supported two bog turtle interns for the summer, Bryan Hudson and Theresa Stratmann. With the additional staff, Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologist Thomas Floyd was able to set 145 traps covering 12 sites in four counties.

“DNR’s recent bog habitat restoration efforts are a double-edged sword for bog turtle conservation,” Floyd said. While habitat improvements have been accomplished over the past three years, these efforts inadvertently made it harder to capture turtles that were previously concentrated in small pockets of suitable habitat. Yet, said Floyd, “The long-term benefits of these habitat improvements are well worth this added difficulty.”

Project Orianne joined the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section in bog turtle conservation efforts this year. With 40 traps from DNR, staff at Project Orianne, an organization furthering conservation of eastern indigo snakes, trapped in multiple sites in northeastern Georgia…