The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Information offered about turtles


September 17, 2020

To The Eagle:

I was surprised to read in the August 13 issue of The Eagle that representatives of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife identified the common snapping turtle Chelydra serpentina as a species native to Washington state. A USGS profile provides a map of the native range of this species. This range encompasses most of the United States, but has historically not extended far west of the Rocky Mountains. There are isolated populations in Washington and Oregon, probably introduced as released pets. A WDFW webpage categorizes the turtle as an aquatic invasive species.

Wahkiakum County is home to one native species of turtle: the western painted turtle Chrysemys picta. “Mr. Turtleface” in the September 3 Eagle photo by Sarah Lawrence was of this species. Our western painted turtles have seen some decline with the introduction of nonnative bullfrogs, which eat the two-bit-sized hatchlings. (Bullfrogs, incidentally, were introduced to Washington from the eastern U.S. as a source of food during the Great Depression.)

Turtles are remarkably long-lived creatures. Lucky members of our native species can live for at least 20 years, but there is evidence that the newcomer Chelydra serpentina can live for over 100 years. In welcoming our new resident to the community, let us encourage him or her to adopt a monastic lifestyle, and a diet exclusive to bullfrogs.

Below are some resources for the curious:

Common snapping turtle (USGS species profile)

Western Painted Turtle (Oregon Zoo):

Living with Wildlife: Frogs (WDFW):

Connor Emlen-Petterson



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