Northwest pond turtles to get federal protection as they near extinction
Federal officials say pond turtles are nearing extinction from Washington state to Mexico.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed protecting the turtles as a threatened species on Friday.
Fewer than 1,000 pond turtles are thought to live in Washington state. Populations in Oregon’s Willamette Valley have plunged 99%, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
The activist group first petitioned the federal government to protect western pond turtles in 2012. A genetic analysis in 2014 led scientists to split the species into two: northwestern pond turtles and southwestern pond turtles, which roam (very slowly) from central California to Mexico’s Baja California.
The Fish and Wildlife Service wants to list both as threatened species.
On Friday, the agency cited drought, loss of freshwater habitats, and invasive species such as bullfrogs as the main threats to the turtles’ continued existence.
The agency is taking public comment on the proposed listing for 60 days.
Western pond turtles can live 55 years in the wild and depend on ponds, wetlands, streams, as well as upland habitats.