An upcoming program at North Park will highlight Allegheny County naturalists' efforts to aid local turtle populations, particularly the eastern box turtle.
The turtle conservation program will take place from 1-2:30 p.m. June 2 at Latodami Nature Center. The last day for registration is May 30.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, box turtles are listed as vulnerable, just one step up from endangered. Latodami naturalist Matt Trudeau said their numbers have been in decline for decades now due to loss of habitat and low reproductive numbers. They are illegal to own as pets in the state of Pennsylvania, Trudeau added.
“We have a breeding program here at the nature center and we have a number of babies and adults,” Trudeau said. “The adults we've either rescued from bad owners or they were hurt somewhere else and unable to be released into the wild. The babies right now are part of our breeding program and we will release them in a few years, hopefully, to boost populations in the park.”
Other turtle populations in North Park include wood turtles, which are classified as endangered by the IUCN, painted turtles and snapping turtles.
The program will showcase the adult turtles housed at the nature center that act as “education ambassadors,” Trudeau said. Participants will also get a chance to see some of the large snapping turtles and others that are often seen in and around the pond at the nature center.
Another topic for discussion will be some of the issues they're having at the park with red-eared sliders.
“Those are the ones you typically find at pet stores, and they push out the other species from their habitats after people release them into the park because they don't want to care for them anymore,” Trudeau said. “It's what we'd call an invasive species.”
In addition to the program for adults, the nature center will also host two different sessions geared toward children ages 3 to 6 called Young Nature Explorers — Turtles Are Terrific on June 12. One session will be held from 10-11:30 a.m. and the other will be 1-2:30 p.m. A parent or guardian must accompany the child. There is no cost, but participants must register by June 6. Call 724-935-2170 for more information.
Karen Price is aTribune-Review contributor.
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