I haven’t had an “up close and personal” encounter with a Western Pond Turtle in 10 years, so it was pretty exciting to come across this one this week.
This is the only freshwater turtle native to California. Their preferred habitat consists of calm waters, such as streams or pools, with vegetated banks and basking sites, which are usually rocks or logs.
These turtles are wary and secretive. When disturbed, they seek cover in water, diving beneath the surface and hiding in submerged vegetation. Their brown color makes them difficult to see at the bottom of a pond or stream.
Habitat loss and fragmentation are threats to Western Pond Turtles. Development of housing, roads and eliminating waterways has taken a toll on this species. It has been further challenged by non-native predators and crowding by non-native turtle species.
The Western Pond Turtle is a “species of special concern,” according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and are declining rapidly throughout the west. It was one of the many highlights of my trip to the Golden State to spend some time observing this reptile in the wild.