Endangered Turtle Sighted in Pelham

June 5, 2015
Staff photo by Kaela Law  The endangered Blanding Turtle.

Staff photo by Kaela Law The endangered Blanding Turtle.

by Kaela Law

On a hike through the woods in the Gumpus Pond Conservation Area (150 acres), Chairman of the Conservation Commission Paul Gagnon made a rare Blanding’s turtle sighting.

Blanding’s turtles are distinguished by their bright yellow chins and helmet-shaped shells.  They are endangered in the New England region.

This turtle was seen and photographed “on the blue trail in Gumpus,” said Gagnon who pointed to the printer-friendly trail map, which can be found online at pelhamweb.org.  “The front left foot of this turtle was missing toes, and the shell had a healed-over crack.”  Gagnon speculated that it must have been previously hit by a car or a lawn mower.  He later reported the sighting with the NH Department of Environmental Sciences.

Loren Valliere, biologist at the NH Fish and Game, helped explain why these turtles are endangered in the state of New Hampshire.  Blanding’s Turtles “depend on a long life span, and do not reach reproductive age until at least 15 years,” Valliere said.  In other words, they must survive their first 15 years of life before they can produce and grow their numbers.  “They are also long-ranged, and travel a lot between wetlands and vernal pools, so roads are a major issue for them.”  As more land in Southern NH becomes developed and these animals suffer habitat fragmentation, they become more susceptible to roadway dangers and also population divide.

The Gumpus Pond Conservation Area in Pelham abuts the Hudson, NH Musquash Conservation Land (416 acres).  Gagnon and the Pelham Conservation Commission are working on a couple of land parcel purchases that will connect Gumpus to the Merriam/Cutter Conservation Area (147 acres).  This creates well over 700 acres of contiguous conserved outdoor space in which wildlife can thrive.  “We really have a tremendous asset right in our own backyard,” Gagnon stated.

In 2003, Pelham’s Conservation Commission set a 10-year plan of acquiring 1,000 acres of land for permanent natural preservation.  To date they have been largely successful and have totaled over 800 acres of acquisition.  As the commission works to reach their goal, the residents in Pelham are left with wonderful outdoor recreational space to enjoy the natural world.

For help determining the type of animals encountered on nature hikes out in the Pelham trails, pictures may be sent to the Pelham Conservation Commission via the pelhamweb.org.  It is encouraged to view wildlife but to leave it generally undisturbed.