Tag Archives: western pond turtle

A Tribute to Tammy

By Sadie Gilliom, SPP Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator;
All photos by Sadie Gilliom unless otherwise noted

Congratulations to Tammy Schmidt, our partner with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, on her new position! We are happy for you, Tammy, but sad to see you go.

Tammy Schmidt has dedicated much of her time in the past 3 years to the Western Pond Turtle Program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center.  As an expert in the endangered western pond turtles, this Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist shared her knowledge and passion for wildlife conservation and turtle care with me and eager technicians and correctional staff.

Shaking hands with a technician

Tammy shaking hands with a technician. (Note: We are respecting Tammy’s wish for privacy by not showing her face in photos.)

She brought her patience and great sense of humor to the program.  She always took the time to explain and answer the many questions we had — and repeat answers as new coordinators and technicians came into the program.

She came out to Cedar Creek once a month to check-up on the turtles’ wounds from their shell disease.  She trained the technicians and myself in how to monitor the wounds in the shells to make sure they were healing well. In case of any turtle emergency, she was the one we called.

Tammy examines a turtles shell

Tammy examining a turtles shell

Tammy examining a turtles shell.

She took the technicians out to the release site, showed them how they track the turtles, and how they protected their nests with a wire protector.

Tammy showing the technicians around the release site. Photo by Fiona Edwards

Tammy showing the technicians around the release site. Photo by Fiona Edwards.

I want to say a personal thanks to Tammy for her support during any health emergencies with the turtles, for sharing her knowledge, and for allowing me to assist with the annual exam of the turtles at the release site.

Me (Sadie) assisting Tammy with data collection

I (Sadie) assist Tammy with data collection.

Thank you, Tammy, for your huge role in making this program a possibility and for all of your support!  Best wishes on your new adventure!

Larch’s First Turtle Release: A Technician’s Response

by Sadie Gilliom, SPP Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator, and Mr. Goff, SPP Turtle Technician
Photos by Sadie Gilliom, except where noted

On May 18th, 2016, Larch Corrections Center released its first nine turtles into a pond in Klickitat County. These were state-listed endangered western pond turtles that received care at Larch. The turtles had been removed form the wild by biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife because they were suffering from a shell disease. They received acute treatment by the veterinarian at the Oregon Zoo and then transferred to Larch Corrections Center where two trained technicians cared for the turtles until they were ready to be released back into the wild.

Larch Turtle Ready for Release

A Larch turtle is ready for release.

Release Site

The release site was a lovely pond in Klickitat County.

The team—myself, Larch’s SPP Liaison Mr. Piliponis, Superintendent Oliver-Estes, the two technicians, Sergeant, and Mark Francis—drove 3 hours to a beautiful wetland. It was a sunny day with a clear view of Mt. Hood. We were greeted by WDFW biologist Stefanie Bergh, the founder of the Western Pond Turtle breeding program, Frank Slavins, and Oregon Zoo volunteers and staff. The Oregon Zoo was releasing the turtle hatchlings from their head start program on the same day.

Sgt. Mark Franklin Guarding the Turtles

Sgt. Mark Franklin guards the turtles.

Supt. Oliver-Estes Saying Farewell to a Turtle

Larch Superintendent Oliver-Estes says farewell to a turtle.

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill Learning About Turtle Anatomy

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill examined empty shells to learn more about turtle anatomy.

After meeting everyone, learning about the different tools the biologists use to study the turtles, and the technicians answering lots of questions about the Larch turtles from curious volunteers, we made our way down to the water’s edge. One by one all of the turtles were gently placed near the water. Then they trudged their way into the pond to swim off and join the others. This march to freedom was a moment to remember for all of the many players in the army to save the western pond turtle, but perhaps most memorable for the turtle technicians who are prepping for release themselves.

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill Teaching Zoo Volunteers About Westen Pond Turtles

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill taught young zoo volunteers about western pond turtles.

After the turtle release, Turtle Technician Mr. Joseph Goff shared his response to the experience:

“On Dec 19 2015 I became a caretaker. It was probably the last thing I thought I would be doing in my current situation. Caretaking is a humbling experience. It gives you a perspective on yourself, but also makes you focus on something or someone else. To be one of the reasons that these turtles survive is amazing. Also to see all the other people that have a part as well or are even just interested in knowing what they could do to to help. In so many ways this in something pure. To have so many people come together on one common ground doing what they can to help a turtle that has no means to help himself.

This program has opened my eyes—first to my future. I always have loved anything to do with nature or animals. I want to go back to school for it now. I want to volunteer and do it for a living. This program has also changed my perspective on people. Outside of family I guess I’ve lost my ability to put trust in or listen to others. Surrounding myself with people who always had ulterior motives or just take and pretend to care. It made me close-minded and hardened. In fact, a lot of people probably might have said I was one of those people that had ulterior motives that pretended to care.

Now I’m caring for these turtles who ironically are sick just like I was. They are enclosed and cared for. When their time is up and they are well they get to leave; if they get sick again they come back. I’m also involved with other caregivers that have helped me find a part of myself I had lost along the way. I believe this program has greatly changed my current life and if I continue with this same line of work or similar, I will be forever changed.”

Turtle Technician Mr. Goff Releasing a Turtle

Turtle Technician Mr. Goff Releasing a Turtle.

Watching the Turtles Swim Away

The technicians watched the turtles swim away.

All the Collaborators for the Turtle Program

Here is the Larch’s Turtle Program team. Photo by Zoo Volunteer.

A Successful Turtle Release

by Sadie Gilliom, Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator

Steve holds a western pond turtle just before releasing it in a Pierce County wetland. The endangered species received care from conservation technicians at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Kelli Bush.

SPP’s Director for Washington Corrections, Steve Sinclair, holds a western pond turtle just before releasing it in a Pierce County wetland. The endangered species received care from conservation technicians at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Kelli Bush.

On April 14th, four western pond turtles were released back into the wild in a wetland in Pierce County. These turtles had come into the care of the western pond turtle inmate technicians at Cedar Creek Corrections Center due to shell disease. After being taken in by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and receiving acute veterinary care at PAWs wildlife rehabilitation center, the turtles were transported to the technicians. The technicians provided expert care for the turtles and their wounds until they were healed enough to be released back into their natural habitat. Please enjoy the following pictures of this fantastic event!

Turtle Technician Anglemyer and SPP Turtle Coordinator Sadie Gilliom discuss preparation for release. Photo by Shauna Bittle, Photographer for The Evergreen State College

Turtle Technician Anglemyer and SPP Turtle Coordinator Sadie Gilliom discuss preparation for release. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Technician Hufferd-Oulette, SPP Coordinator Sadie Gilliom and Technician Anglemyer pose with turtles getting ready for release. Photo by Shauna Bittle, Photographer for The Evergreen State College

Technician Hufferd-Oulette, SPP Coordinator Sadie Gilliom and Technician Anglemyer pose with turtles getting ready for release. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Saying goodbye and good luck to a turtle. Photo by Shauna Bittle, Photographer of The Evergreen State College

Saying goodbye and good luck to a turtle. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

SPP Liaison and Classicifcation Counselor, Gina Sibley, helping the technicians load the turtles in the van. Photo by Evergreen photographer Shauna Bittle

SPP Liaison and Classifications Counselor, Gina Sibley, helping the technicians load the turtles in the van. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Dr. Bethany examines turtle prior to release. Photo by SPP Manager Kelli Bush

Dr. Bethany examines turtle prior to release. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Sadie helping to attach the radio trackers on the turtles. Photo by SPP manager Kelli Bush

Sadie helping to attach the radio trackers on the turtles. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Turtle ready for release! Photo by SPP manager Kelli Bush

Turtle ready for release! Photo by Kelli Bush.

Deputy Secretary, Jodi Becker-Green releasing her turtle. Photo by SPP manager Kelli Bush

Deputy Secretary Jody Becker-Green releasing her turtle. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Sadie and Kelli co-releasing the last turtle. Photo by Jody Becker-Green

Sadie and Kelli co-releasing the last turtle. Photo by Jody Becker-Green.

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!

 

New Turtle & Frog Technicians

We recently hired two new inmate technicians that bring exciting new skills to the Frog and Turtle Program! Inmate technician Anglemyer is an aspiring journalist and inmate technician Boysen has skills in plumbing and mechanics. Both technicians have already proven to be great assets to the frog and turtle program by improving the frog and turtle tank structures. Under their care, the Oregon spotted frog tadpoles are strong and healthy and the western pond turtles are doing great!

Anglemyer and Boysen in the turtle facility.  Photo Credit: Sadie Gilliom

Anglemyer and Boysen in the turtle facility. Photo Credit: Sadie Gilliom

Here is an excerpt from Anglemyer’s cover letter that expresses his dedication to the frog and turtle program:

Seeking Turtles

Goals

With his interest in journalism, we hope to hear more about his experience with the frogs and turtles in the future! We are excited to see what both Anglemyer and Boysen continue to bring to the program!

A Convicts Redemption

By Jamar Glenn, Western Pond Turtle Technician

Who would’ve thought a turtle’s life was so parallel to mine? I was given a great opportunity to work with an endangered species, the western pond turtle (WPT), which was placed here at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC). These animals were infected with an illness called “shell disease.” This disease eats at the plastron, which is the bottom half of the turtle shell. If not treated immediately this disease can kill the animal.

Jamar Glenn studies a turtle after a trip to the vet; both he and SPP's Graduate Research Assistant Fiona Edwards (left) helped build the prison's facility for the turtles.

Jamar Glenn studies a turtle after a trip to the vet; both he and SPP’s Graduate Research Assistant Fiona Edwards (left) helped build prison facility that houses the turtles.

From the beginning of the turtle’s life it’s faced with an obstacle to reach its destination of “freedom.” In the beginning stage the mother lays her eggs along shore, leaving her young to fend for themselves. It’s up to the turtle to follow nature’s designed course to make it to its final destination. To get there the turtle has to go survive a series of threats to finally be free:

  1. Predatory animals who feast on the young hatchlings
  2. Human consumption, commercial trapping for food and pets
  3. Loss of habitat
  4. Rare illness

In this particular case of shell disease, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) run a series of tests and administer intensive treatments with the turtles. Once the turtles are treated, they are then given to CCCC for additional care: we give 20-minute iodine baths, feed them a diverse diet, weigh them, and give additional care to any lesions located on the plastron. We then submit observation notes to the scientist and veterinarians so they can keep records on each individual turtle. The turtles stay under my care for 2-4 months. Once healed, the turtles are released back into the wild to carry on with their turtle lives.

As I released my first turtle, I thought about the turtle’s life and the events it had to endure. Constantly on the run from predators, being captured and taken away from its natural habitat, and riddled with illness, to finally returning home healthy and determined to stay free if she has anything to do with it. She was tagged upon release, so she’ll be under the watchful eye at all times.

As she swam away, I thought about my own life. How I also had to go through my own life struggles ever since I was a youngster. I’ve been alone with no assistance. Predators were my enemy (rival gangs). My illness was my addictions (drugs/alcohol), and my loss of habitat was prison. I too will be tagged and watched by “the eye.”

Turtle technicians Timothy Nuss and  Jamar Glenn on turtle release day.

Turtle technicians Timothy Nuss and Jamar Glenn on turtle release day.

The author releases a turtle.

The author releases a healthy turtle.

I came to prison when I was 16 years old; I’ve been incarcerated now for 17 years. My time has come for me to be released here next year. This program has really enlightened my heart and mind, opening my eyes to a whole new world of opportunity. It’s taught me how to be consistent, responsible, great job ethics, and communication skills. These are tools I didn’t possess in my younger years. I finally can give back to society in my own special kind of way, doing something I never could imagine myself doing. I too will be under the eye, I too will return home healthy, and determined to stay free if I have anything to do with it! Who would’ve thought a turtle’s life was parallel to mine.

For more about the turtle release, see Fiona Edward’s blog on the event.