It’s the time of year when baby Western Painted Turtles are emerging from the sands of Elizabeth Lake. To celebrate the emerging miniature reptilian babies, the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, along with support from Rocky Mountain Naturalists, held the first ever Turtle Day at Elizabeth Lake.
“What we’re trying to get across is the whole message about their amazing lifecycle,” explained Angus Glass, from the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.
He said the Cranbrook population is on the northern edge of the population of Western Painted Turtles.
Glass said that the turtles actually come out of their eggs in the fall, but because there is no food they stay there until the spring. So part of the work that the groups do besides protecting the area is helping the turtles to the surface by uncovering the sand. Only a few weeks later the older female turtles will be back to lay more eggs.
Curious turtle seekers got a glimpse of that as Art Gruenig, from the Rocky Mountain Naturalists, took groups down to the turtles’ nesting grounds. There he dug up some of the nests, sometimes uncovering turtle hatchlings. Some of the spots came up with just eggshells of hatched turtles.
There were four freshly hatched turtles that Gruenig showed to the groups, all four in a seemingly comatose state, until they are left alone for an extended amount fo time. The turtles’ bellies are already covered with the distinct and unique markings that distinguish them from other turtles.
There were also baby turtles on display at booths set up, these ones much more lively. Children’s faces lit up as they held the small turtles, which walked across their hands.
Representatives from Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and the Rocky Mountain Naturalists were happy to talk about the turtles and the ecosystem they live in.