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Don Lewis, Massachusetts Audubon Society,
Fox Island Wildlife Management Area

Painted Gallery — 26 April 2002

Northwest winds gusting to 30 knots and wind chills in the 30s have placed the terrapin season on pause.  Tomorrow morning’s full moon tide, a minus 1.7-foot low synchronized with sunrise, would have been perfect for turtling.  But with a predicted overnight low of 33 degrees, no sane terrapin is likely to leave her oozy mud blanket to greet the day with this crazy researcher.

In the interlude I returned to Silver Spring Brook on the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary to test capture methods and processing protocols for the scheduled painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) roundup during this June’s turtle and terrapin field school beginning on 23 June (see Summer Field Schools).  I discovered a good collection spot.  A large fallen tree lies perpendicular to the north shore near the wooden bridge.  The shallows around the log offer easy access for turtles to climb aboard and bask.

While the soft bottom, filled with leaves and decaying organic matter, offers camouflage and concealment, the movement of fleeing turtles across this backdrop can still be detected.  With a 10-foot pole net, I easily snare four animals as they dropped into the water on my approach.  And when I returned 30 minutes later to release the captured individuals, the log was once again occupied by basking turtles.

Of the four netted animals, three were new: #102, #103, and #104, while the fourth was turtle #101 — the first marked painted captured as an experiment on 21 April (see Beginnings).  The location of his first netting was about 500 feet west of the log.  All four were very close in size, ranging from #101 (the smallest) at 10.65 centimeters carapace length and 164 grams weight to #103 (the largest) at 12.59 centimeters and 228 grams.  Of these first four captures, two showed carapace anomalies: #102 had six vertebrals and five right costal scutes, and #104 had an extra left costal scute.