Since purchasing the property, the Friends stewardship team has worked to improve the turtle habitat at Turtle Haven in coordination with WDFW, the U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The western pond turtles of course use the ponds on the property, but they also need the upland habitat.
The grass is cut every autumn so that the meadows near the ponds get enough solar exposure needed for female turtles’ nest preferences. The invasive Himalayan blackberry is being controlled to allow for turtle movement between ponds.
American bullfrogs, an invasive species on the west coast, eat hatchling western pond turtles and push the turtles out of their niche. The stewardship team, including contractors, has been working to remove bullfrogs to reduce turtle predation. The bullfrogs lay large masses of eggs (one female bullfrog can lay up to 30,000 eggs in an egg mass) in the spring and summer months. During the egg-laying period the egg masses are searched for and removed via kayak from the ponds preventing the eggs from hatching and becoming thousands of new bullfrogs. The project also includes culling adults and tadpoles using a variety of methods.
In 2019, for the first time on the property, young turtles raised in captivity by the Oregon Zoo were released into two ponds on Turtle Haven. The hatchling turtles were collected in the wild and raised in perpetual summer-like conditions at the zoo so that when they were later released, they were larger and effectively too big for predators like the bullfrog to eat. The event was attended by media to celebrate the ongoing partnership between the Oregon Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Friends to help preserve and protect the western pond turtles in the area.
Also in 2019 the Friends Land trust was awarded funds from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to restore the turtle habitat at the Turtle Haven preserve. The majority of the restoration work will be culling the bullfrog population as well as controlling invasive plants like Himalayan blackberry and replanting native species.
In 2015 The Nature Conservancy completed an assessment designed to identify areas that were crucial to conservation in the face of climate change. This project looked across the Pacific Northwest to identify areas with a high level of “geodiversity” –landscapes with a complexity of soils, elevation, aspect, and bedrock that make them more likely to offer accommodating habitat to plants and animals that will be on the move in response to climate change.
According to that analysis, the rugged cliffs and open meadows of nearby Buck, Wind and Dog Mountains have an “above average” rating for climate resilience. Investing in permanent land conservation and stewardship in this area will have long-term benefits to plants and wildlife in the face of climate change.
Photos from Turtle Haven (from top):
- Pond at Turtle Haven. Richard Kolbell)
- A western pond turtle is released into a pond. (Richard Kolbell)
- Dilapidated barn on preserve. (Richard Kolbell)
- A stewardship volunteer cuts back Himalayan blackberry at preserve. (Frances Fischer)
- Collins Creek. (Richard Kolbell)
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Lyle Cherry Orchard
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