Eagle Scout project helps western pond turtles catch rays at First Lake
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- Last Updated: April 30, 2019 April 30, 2019
First Lake’s resident western pond turtles recently received new basking logs thanks to an Eagle Scout project led by Andrew Bolen, his father, and a combined effort by Albany Parks & Recreation staff, Public Works staff, Calapooia Watershed Council, a representative of Ash Creek Forest Management and Willamette Restoration Volunteers.
First Lake, located at Simpson Park, is home to the native western pond turtle which is threatened by habitat loss and degradation and considered a priority at-risk species by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, as well as a species of concern by US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Turtles use First Lake as well as Talking Water Gardens for their habitat. They bask, forage and nest there. Because turtles are ectotherms, they rely on basking structures to sun themselves to maintain a proper body temperature. These resident turtles were already basking on natural logs in First Lake, but the Oregon Native Turtle Working Group and City staff noticed they needed more.
When Bolen contacted Albany Parks & Recreation for an Eagle Scout project, staff offered him this option and he ran with it. The structures he built are log slabs that mimic a naturally fallen tree with one end extended into the water; each is wide enough to host multiple turtles. The structures are fixed with foam on one side to help them float above the surface and are weighted on the opposite side to remain partially submerged and ensure the turtles can easily climb onto them. The logs were placed in areas that receive various amounts of sun exposure to provide options for exposure throughout the day. At the end of the installation day, a couple of participants reported seeing turtles already soaking up the sun on the new logs.
Parks & Recreation staff will be conducting visual surveys to see if and how the turtles are using the new basking logs and how the structures themselves hold up over time and handle the flux in water level.
Parks & Recreation and Willamette Restoration Volunteers have also been working on an ongoing riparian restoration project along the east side of First Lake with community members helping with planting and mulching. This project is being done in part to enhance the nesting habitat for the western pond turtle.
More conservation and recovery efforts for western pond turtles are also happening at Talking Water Gardens near First Lake. ODFW received a 2017 federal grant dedicated to western pond turtle conservation efforts at several sites in the Willamette Valley including Talking Water Gardens. Since then, Public Works staff have worked with ODFW conducting surveys and implementing restoration efforts to enhance basking, nesting, and hibernation habitat for the western pond turtles at Talking Water Gardens and First Lake. To learn more about western pond turtle, a species of concern in Oregon, check out ODFW’s Strategy Species website.
Altogether, we hope these projects will result in more turtle activity over time.