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DNR seeks turtle spotters

MADISON - Turtle nesting season is beginning for many Wisconsin turtle species. Citizens are asked to submit turtle sightings, with an emphasis on road crossing hot spots, to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Turtle Conservation Program.

"Citizen reports in past years have been very important for turtle conservation," said Andrew Badje, who coordinates the turtle conservation program for the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Bureau. "Such reports have helped us identify problem road crossings throughout the state, and helped us document previously unknown populations of rare turtles."

Since the project began in 2012, more than 1,300 citizens have reported nearly 3,000 turtle sightings throughout Wisconsin and have identified more than 1,300 turtle road crossing hotspots. Those hotspots include 38 sites where turtles were being run over by cars at high rates.

From May through July, female turtles cross roads to find suitable nesting areas in sunny uplands with sand, gravel and loose soil. Turtles getting run over by cars is considered a leading cause of decline in turtle numbers in Wisconsin, especially in highly fragmented areas and areas with high traffic volumes, Badje says.

"Keeping these adult, breeding-age, females around is critical in managing sustainable turtle populations," Badje said. "The loss of even one adult female can have a large effect on future population numbers, especially in species like the wood turtle and Blanding's turtle, which can take from 12 to 20 years to reach reproductive age."

To report turtle crossings and other turtle sightings, or for additional information about Wisconsin turtles, search online for Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program, wiatri.net/inventory/witurtles.

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