Western Pond Turtle
Habitat: Pond turtles prefer marshes, streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. They need sparse vegetation nearby for digging nests and like to bask on logs.
Lives: Coast Range, East Cascades, Klamath Mountains, West Cascades and Willamette Valley ecoregions.
Fun fact: This turtle, which can live up to 50 years in the wild, is not fully aquatic, it may spend part of the year in upland forests.
Western Painted Turtle
Lives: In Blue Mountains and Willamette Valley ecoregions. In the Columbia Plateau, East Cascades and West Cascades ecoregions, it lives only along the Columbia River.
Fun fact: While hatchlings are only about the size of a quarter, individuals can live 20 years or more.
Call this a case of fighting for turtle turf.
ODFW says non-native turtles have moved into the neighborhood.
This neighborhood is in north Eugene.
"That's the one thing I hope I can get across today, that a turtle is not a turtle," said Brian Wolfer, a state wildlife biologist.
Wolfer led a turtle safari at North Delta Ponds. The objective: the Western pond turtle.
"It's important that we turn the species around a bit," Wolfer said. "They are on the state sensitive species list."
That means the species is not bad enough for the federal "endangered" listing, but is still of deep concern to scientists.
The pond turtle and Western painted turtle are getting hit on several fronts: habitat loss, invasive plants like blackberries upsetting nesting sites, and non-native bullies like the red-eared slider.
"So people that had these as pets would bring them and dump them in the water when the turtle got too big for their aquarium," Wolfer said on how the "sliders" got into the ponds and the environment.
The sliders compete for food, nesting sites, even log space for sunning.
One thing going for the species is that people really like turtles; they're very very popular, but as Wolfer stresses, they're not all the same.
But late in our safari comes an amazing discovery: a peace accord. There is a Western pond and red eared slider, side by side on the same log. Wolfer said don't let that fool you.
"Can we give the pond turtle a competitive advantage so that it can out-compete the sliders, and how do you do that?" Wolfer said.
Wolfer said he's optimistic for the future of the native turtles, but said it will take time and effort.
Meanwhile, ODFW biologists are asking Oregonians to be on the lookout for turtles this summer around ponds and wetlands, and report those sightings to the department. Officials also warn motorists driving along streams and rivers to watch for turtles crossing the pavement.
If you see a turtle, please report it via the Internet on the Native Turtles of Oregon Web site, http://www.oregonzoo.org/Turtles/