News Releases

February 26, 2008

Draft Recovery Plan for Threatened Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle is Announced

WATERBURY, VT – A recovery plan for the rare eastern spiny softshell turtle has been prepared by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and is now available for public review and comment.

The eastern spiny softshell turtle is threatened in Vermont and protected by Vermont’s Endangered Species Law. The purpose for public review of this science-based plan is to raise awareness of the species and Fish & Wildlife’s plan for its recovery.

The goal of the recovery plan is to increase the population of eastern spiny softshell turtles in Lake Champlain to a point where they are self-sustaining and can be removed from the state’s endangered species list. The plan identifies specific actions to increase numbers of these turtles within their historic range in northern Lake Champlain.

The eastern spiny softshell turtle is found in Lake Champlain from Mallets Bay north to Missisquoi Bay, including the Lamoille River and Missisquoi River. A population inhabited the Winooski River during the 1800’s.

The eastern spiny softshell turtle can reach a length of more than 20 inches and weight of 25 lbs. Unlike snapping turtles and other turtles with hard shells, it has a flat, leathery carapace or shell. The shell is olive to grayish in color with dark spots and numerous sharp projections that give the shell a sandpaper-like surface. This turtle also has large three-clawed webbed feet and a long tubular snout that makes it easy to distinguish from all other turtles found in Vermont.

The eastern spiny softshell turtle is known to over-winter in Lake Champlain in the vicinity of the Missisquoi Bay Bridge as well as in deep pools in the Missisquoi and Lamoille Rivers.

Factors that limit spiny softshell turtles in Vermont likely include available nesting habitat that has been reduced by shoreline development, shading of nesting areas and predation of concentrated nests. Other possible causes are considered in the plan.

The department and volunteers have been working to protect and improve nesting sites and to control predators at nesting locations on state property. The department has also been attempting to educate the public to minimize hooking, motor boat and other human-related mortality.

Restoring an endangered or threatened species to the point where there exist secure, self-sustaining populations is the primary goal of the Vermont Endangered Species Law.

Copies of the draft plan can be viewed or printed from Fish & Wildlife’s website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) in the Wildlife Programs section. Copies also can be obtained by calling the department (802-241-3700) or writing to: Vermont Fish & Wildlife, 103 South Main Street, Waterbury, VT 05671-0501. Comments on the draft recovery plan are welcome until April 1, 2008 and should be sent to the same address.

Source: Agency of Natural Resources
Last Updated at: February 26, 2008 15:43:03