As mentioned, I am sending photos and writing about a turtle casualty and some research supporting restoration of habitat, work to educate the public and at certain times of the year, installing signage along part of Town Beach Road.
I have been looking for turtle species and nesting activity and found a crushed turtle at about 7 pm, on 06/16/2021, along Town Beach Road, a few inches into the roadbed, on the pond side of the road. The site was between the back entrance to Richmond Shores, and the boat ramp parking lot- closer to the Shores gate. It is the first turtle I’ve observed along there this spring, living or dead, in an area where turtle nests have been found in the past. The road shows additional widening again this year- and the tossing off of road materials into the grassy habitat area, in spots, almost right to the pond’s edge.
There are photos of the carapace – or top shell- of the turtle as found, then the back shell, or plastron of the turtle. The shell was between six and eight inches long. The shell shape, size and color shows it is a Chrysemys picta, a Painted Turtle. It’s common throughout MA – and many States- in shallow water bodies where it can bask on rocks and logs. The female is larger, growing to 8 inches, with a flat plastron- indicating this was a female fatality, which makes sense because it is peak nesting season when they seek areas to lay eggs in the sandy-gravelly edges of ponds. That it was a female is significant.
This species eats aquatic plants, small fish and snails and is 15 million years old. Her shell was crushed and cracked in 2 places. While found a few inches into the roadbed, it’s hard to say whether it had been moved, since there were signs of some predation- limbs looked like they’d been eaten- possibly by a raccoon.
In 2010, a scientist named Jennifer A. Gervais did a survey of studies of this species, gathering data collected by scientists over the years about traffic deaths of turtles in PA, MT, OR, including one study from back in 1974, that measured 14 deaths in one day along a short stretch of Pennsylvania road. She and colleagues concluded increasing traffic as well as roads penetrating farther into turtle habitat had become significant problems for these turtle populations. The species Chrysemys picta -the Painted Turtle- while common and not on the endangered list, is still a species of concern because of exactly what’s happening on our road. It is only the females who have to wander- the males keep to the water, but in Spring, females go out in search of suitable nesting sites- wandering farther if their usual sites have been made to hard to dig. Gervais concluded increased road kill in an area during nesting season is selecting out females- reducing them in areas where there’s no signage and public education about watching out for turtles. Surveys of turtles near busy roads indicated there were significantly more males than females-most road deaths are nesting females. A study of turtles near a highway in Montana showed that populations near the road were much smaller than turtles living a few miles away. The road-proximate turtles also were a younger group, leading scientists to conclude that without signs and education, the road was killing substantial numbers. Oregon has built an underpass for turtles and Montana built road barriers- most rely on signage and public education.
On the same night I observed this crushed female, I saw two spots that looked like a nest was dug, or attempts made at digging nests, on the shoulder of the road, a few yards closer to the boat landing parking lot from where the turtle was found. I didn’t have anything to measure exactly where the turtle was found, and I left it where it lay- but the photos attached should give you an idea where to measure, starting from the back entrance to Richmond Shores, along Town Beach Road, toward then boating landing.
Warm regards, Leslie Breeding
These disturbing images really bring home the urgency I personally feel to work with the ConCom and other town organizations to protect these precious creatures. Thank you for continued efforts and please know that we will find a way to be more protective.