Turtles and Plantain at Larch Corrections Center

by Kelli Bush, SPP Program Manager

From left to right, a WDFW biologist, SPP program coordinator Sadie Gilliom, and two new turtle technicians, discuss how to biologist how to care for a western pond turtle. Photo by Kelli Bush.

WDFW Biologist Stefani Bergh, Facilities Manager Terry Hettinger, and the new turtle technicians discuss how to care for western pond turtles at Larch Corrections Center. Photo by Carl Elliott.

It has been an exciting year at Larch Corrections Center (LCC) as two new SPP conservation programs have been established at the minimum security prison located east of Vancouver, WA. Prison staff and leadership have been excellent partners—they worked quickly to create a new turtle lab and build plantain beds, and have been great collaborators and communicators.

Turtles

The first new program involves work with state-endangered western pond turtles (Actinemys marmorata), that builds on the success of the turtle program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists have been finding turtles in the wild afflicted with a shell disease. Sick reptiles are transferred from the wild to the Oregon Zoo to receive acute veterinary care. After initial treatment, turtles are transported to LCC to receive extended care and monitoring. Inmate technicians are providing excellent care. Once recovered, turtles will be returned to the wild. Currently Larch Corrections Center is caring for eight turtles which will likely be released late March or early April.

Taylor's checkerspot butterfly caterpillars munch on plantain at SPP's butterfly rearing program at Mission Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly caterpillars munch on plantain at SPP’s butterfly rearing program at Mission Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Plantain for butterflies

SPP and LCC have also teamed up with the Oregon Zoo to grow narrow leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata). This plant is a critical food source for federally-endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies (Euphydryas editha taylori) which are being reared at the Oregon Zoo and at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women. LCC is growing about 3,500 plants to feed rapidly growing butterfly larvae at the Oregon Zoo. One to two times per week, inmate technicians will harvest leaves from plantain plants grown in 10 raised bed gardens at LCC.

We are so pleased to collaborate with the fabulous folks at Oregon Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and others to bring these programs to LCC!

 

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