For most folks a snapping turtle is an unseen Bosque School campus resident. But they lurk in the muddy bottom of Budagher Pond and our adjacent ditch. This past week, students from Bosque’s wildlife and conservation biology class captured a 26 pound Snapping Turtle as part of their ongoing turtle research efforts. The animal was measured, micro-chipped, and returned to the pond.
Turtles are ancient animals and have held their basic form and function since the time of dinosaurs. Our turtle research is a bit more modern. Originating first in our Bosque School wildlife research seminar and now extending into the Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program (BEMP) and Horizons Albuquerque, students have been conducting several ongoing turtle research projects.
Across the last five years three different groups of Bosque School seniors have captured and marked turtles as part of an effort to document the ratio of exotic to native turtles in ponds throughout the north valley of Albuquerque. Likewise summer Horizons Albuquerque students capture and mark turtles as well. Exotic Red-eared Sliders, and their offspring, now represent nearly half of the sun-loving and basking turtles that people readily see on logs and along waterways. Red-eared Sliders were often previously pets and were inappropriately introduced into local ponds and streams. The native Painted Turtle still maintains about 50% portion of the observed and captured turtles the students have studied.
Lurking below the surface are the Snapping Turtles and the Texas Soft-shelled Turtles. Both have the ability to, and do, eat full grown frogs and ducklings.
These animals tend to be more often found in the ditches and the river itself than in the ponds, but both are found from time to time in places like Budagher Pond on the Bosque School campus.
Both Horizons and Bosque School students have presented the findings of their various research projects at various professional scientific meetings in New Mexico and Arizona.
The work continues this year under a group of four seniors, Donny, Justin, Lev, and Tom. Leland Pierce, the NM Department of Game and Fish Reptile and Amphibian Biologist, explains that the students keeping track of the ratio of native to exotic turtles and documenting turtle movement between different aquatic habitats, particularly ponds to streams and vice versa, is incredibly helpful to his management and understanding of these animals.
Blog Post by Dan Shaw, BEMP Co-Director and Bosque School Wildlife Biology Faculty