UBC-Okanagan researcher tracking down the Western Painted Turtle

You often see them in ponds and lakes across the Okanagan sunning themselves on logs and rocks.

Although the Western Painted Turtle is a protected species in B.C., they haven’t been well-studied and nobody knows for sure how many there are.

Now a UBC-Okanagan researcher is going across the province to find out more about the turtles.

Evelyn Jensen wants to find out if Okanagan turtles are genetically different from turtles in other parts of the province.

“It is possible the turtles in the Interior are completely different from the turtles on the coast,” Jensen said. “They might have different adaptations even though they look similar.”

She catches most of her turtles in large traps and uses sardines packed in oil to bait them.

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Once caught, she takes a blood sample from every turtle and then releases them unharmed back into the wild.

The researcher hopes to eventually trap and take samples from at least 600 turtles from across B.C.

This summer, she has concentrated on the Okanagan.

Next year, she will move on to other regions of the province.

The Western Painted Turtle is common in the valley.

“I see turtles every time I come out to Mission Creek Regional Park,” said Risti Lesperance of the Central Okanagan Regional District. “We have a number of ponds in the park and certainly on a hot, sunny day they are out sunning themselves.”

Unfortunately some of the turtles are from a non-native species; they were purchased as pets, released by owners who no longer want them and now compete for food with the native turtles.

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