19 June 2021

The Gentle Creature of the Klamath River

Written by: Stephanie Menjivar

The Klamath River is home and provider to many animals that live in the Northern Californian and Southern Oregon wilderness such as beavers, otters, and black bears. It is also the home and provider to an animal that I has been my main focus of my fellowship - the Western Pond Turtle. The project of my fellowship is conducting a survey along the Klamath River to see where the turtles live, and get an assessment of their habitat range. Outside of surveys, my time in this fellowship has been an amazing crash course from both federal and state government experts about this beautiful species. I learned that Western Pond Turtles are gentle, and very often, elusive animals. They will dive in the water at the sight of you, and I've been told that I will only ever see about 30% of the population outside of the water. When handled for collecting data for the U.S. Forest Service's mark-recapture study, they are docile, and very rarely try to bite the handler.


When describing their appearance, the hatchlings or juveniles can have beautiful leopard-like patterns on their skin. Looking at the face of an adult male, they have white chins, and pointed noses, whereas females have flatter noses and a patterned face that is described often as "whispy mustaches." The drought has reduced the amount of their habitat, which is why I feel as though my work in this fellowship feels so important to me. Not only are the team and I getting an idea of where turtles live and the type of environment they live in along the Klamath River, but we are getting an idea of where they live during a drought. We are also getting an idea of where the turtles are living on the Klamath River before the Iron Gate Dam is removed. I hope that at the conclusion of data collection, the other fellow and I can provide some great comparative data.


What do you predict might happen to the range of the Western Pond Turtles after the Iron Gate Dam is removed? Will they expand or lessen? How do you think it would be in non-drought conditions with removal of the dam?

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office

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