Encouraging Signs For San Diego's Southwestern Pond Turtle

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Encouraging Signs For San Diego's Southwestern Pond Turtle

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The southwestern pond turtle is California's only native freshwater turtle. It lives in areas that include streams, small bodies of water and reservoirs that have ample basking sights. Photo Credit: James Bettaso, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The southwestern pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata pallida), ravaged in San Diego County by development as well as invasive species seems to be making strides in California's southernmost county, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. In 2003, United States Geological Survey ecologists and biologists at the Western Ecological Research Center counted 120 turtles in five county areas where the turtles were known to inhabit. The turtles were not well spread out, according to the report, with 2/3 of the females in the same location.

In 2009, a Save the Turtles campaign was started in San Diego county that featured a southwestern pond turtle breeding program at the San Diego Zoo. Hatchling turtles were raised in captivity until they were large enough to fend off the crayfish, African clawed frogs, and red-eared sliders that either competed with them for food or ate them. They were then released into the campaign's study sites. According to the report, new young pond turtles can now be found at the study site, indicating successful wild reproduction.


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The southwestern pond turtle is California's only native freshwater turtle. It lives in areas that include streams, small bodies of water and reservoirs that have ample areas for basking. There are two subspecies, the northwestern pond turtle (C. m. marmorata) that occurs north of the American River and the southwestern pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata pallida) that is found around San Francisco south all the way into Baja California.