Future generations of turtles in the Chicago area have new hope thanks to Forest Preserves of Cook County, Friends of the Chicago River, and USDA Wildlife Services. For many aquatic turtles, the loss of suitable nesting habitat and high predator densities has limited their ability to reproduce. Increased invasive plant density has restricted turtle nesting to confined areas and the activity is predictable to predators.
Lost habitat accompanied by abundant meso-predator populations has left turtle eggs and hatchlings vulnerable. To minimize these challenges, by removing invasive shrubs and trees Friends of the Chicago River is restoring potential turtle nesting sites, which helps turtles find new nesting sites unknown to predators. Some of the species benefitted include southern painted, common snapping, and spiny softshell turtles.
In order to monitor restoration efforts, biologists from Forest Preserves of Cook County and USDA Wildlife Services captured turtles near the restored habitats and attached transmitters to the their shells, which allows tracking after release. Blood samples were taken and data was recorded on each turtle’s size, weight, and sex. The nesting ecology, reproduction, and predation rates of turtle eggs and hatchlings at the restored sites will be monitored by staff.