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Western Pond Turtle Step Closer To Endangered Species Status

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that Endangered Species Act protections may be warranted for the western pond turtle  (Actinemys marmorat

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that Endangered Species Act protections may be warranted for the western pond turtle  (Actinemys marmorata, formerly Clemmys marmorata). The Center For Biological Diversity, and several renowned scientists and herpetologists petitioned the USFWS in 2012, imploring the service to protect the turtle as its numbers have declined due to ongoing habitat destruction, non-native red-eared sliders, and past collection pressure. As a result of that petition, the USFWS will now conduct a one-year status review of the turtle to determine if the turtle should be afforded protections.

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“The Endangered Species Act is the most powerful tool available to save western pond turtles, so I’m really happy that these amazing reptiles are a step closer to the protection they so desperately need,” Collette Adkins, a Center biologist and lawyer who works to protect reptiles and amphibians said in a statement. “Western pond turtles are integral to the wild places where they live. Losing them would impoverish those places and our own connection with the natural world.”

“Threats like habitat destruction from urbanization and agriculture are driving western pond turtles toward extinction,” said Adkins. “Much-needed federal protection of these turtles would help ensure that rivers and wetlands across the West Coast are protected, both for the turtles and for people.”

Th western pond turtle is found primarily on the west coast of the United States, from western Washington to northwest Baja California. There are two subspecies of the turtle, the northwestern pond turtle (Emys marmorata) that occurs north of the American River and the southwestern pond turtle (Emys pallida) that is found around San Francisco south all the way into Baja California.

The decline of the turtle on the west coast has been fairly well documented, according to the Center. The Washington state population suffered severe declines in 1990 from an upper respiratory disease epidemic that left an estimated population of less than 100 turtles. The turtle is virtually gone from the lower Puget Sound and two populations are known to exist on the Columbia River Gorge. In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the population is estimated to have declined to 1 percent of their historic levels, and in the Central Valley of California, surveys have detected the turtle in just 15 of 55 known sites in their range. In southern California to the Mexican border, the turtle has few stable reproducing populations.


John B. Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata