The Wisconsin Department of Land and Natural Resources has recommended that the Blanding's turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) be removed from the state's endangered species list, according to a report in the Wisconsin State Journal. The recommendation came as part of what the report said was a broader study of species listings that began in 2009. The review proposed to add eight animals to the list and 16 animals be removed from the list. The proposed removal of the Blanding's turtle generated the most response from those for and opposed to the delisting.
The Wisconsin Builders Association supports the delisting and cited the DNR study as enough evidence to delist the turtle while those against the delisting said that the DNR put their own spin on the research without even looking at their own data. For example, the paper reports that the DNR documented 353 occurrences of the turtle throughout the state in an effort to show that the turtle populations are healthy in the state but failed to highlight that many of the documented occurrences were of turtles killed on the state's roads and highways, according to University of Wisconsin at Madison researchers Zach Peery, an assistant professor at the university and Brendan Reid, a Ph.D candidate.
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Blanding's turtle. Photo by Raphael Carter/Wikipedia
The researchers also pointed out that some of the observed turtles could have been lone turtles that were not part of a reproducing population, the DNR's own data showed that documented breeding was not as prevalent as the agency's final recommendation concludes, and it was virtually impossible to determine if the occurrences indeed represent healthy populations of the turtles.
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Currently, when builders discover turtles on building sites, the builders must take precautions to avoid or minimize harm to them, said Bob Hay, who recently retired as the agency's expert on turtles, amphibians, and other species found in the state's wetlands. If the turtle is delisted, the builders would no longer have to take these precautions. Hay also said that if the turtle is delisted, the DNR would no longer be required to relocate turtles prior to spring burns in the state's wetlands areas; a practice that Hay says can kill large numbers of turtles.
Hay believes that the agency underestimated road mortality as well predation when assessing the turtles, giving a false impression that the turtles are maintaining robust populations. He believes that the population of the Blanding's turtle is so low that it may have already reached a tipping point where the numbers of turtles left in the wild are close to not being a self-sustaining population.