Awarded to the BC Conservation Foundation to develop conservation actions for the blue-listed Western Painted Turtle in order to enhance populations.

PROPONENT: BC Conservation Foundation

DESCRIPTION: The Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii) is at the northern limit of its range in British Columbia (BC). The Intermountain-Rocky Mountain Population – of which the West Kootenay turtles are a part – was classed as a “ Species of Special Concern”1 by COSEWIC in 2006, reconfirmed in 2016. 

Turtles face a long list of threats to their survival including mortality from transportation corridors, loss of wetlands and nest site habitat, predation (likely increased by habitat fragmentation), and most recently climate change that threatens further habitat loss through low water levels and dehydration. One intrinsic factor that limits the resilience capacity of turtles is an exceptionally late maturity age (~10 yrs); they need to survive successfully for a decade before reproducing. 

Based on information available, the cooler ecosystems found in RDCK Area D and north through the Columbia Mountains are less productive for turtles than the sunny broad valleys of the Okanagan and East Kootenay (in fact Area D shows as a gap on most turtle range maps), but it is known by local residents and biologists that some turtles are present in the area and there is a keen interest in protecting and encouraging them. Turtles are a ‘flagship’ species that tie people to place and inspire wetland stewardship. 

OBJECTIVE: The objectives of this project have been: (1) to investigate the occurrence of Western Painted turtles in Area D in locations where there have been historic or recent reports of turtles other than the well-documented Argenta Marsh, (2) to assess the current suitability of water bodies and wetland areas in these locations for supporting turtles, and (3) to assess the potential for habitat enhancement in these sites. The ultimate long term goal is to encourage turtle populations in a greater diversity of habitats throughout RDCK Area D thereby increasing resilience and long term survival of the species in this area.