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Turtle territory: “Turtle lady” and park volunteers discuss city park ponds and the future of the popular reptilian residents

Reprinted from Valcomnews

As news of “turtle trouble” at McKinley and William Land Park’s ponds hit various media outlets, Greenhaven’s very own turtle lady, Felice Rood, has been fielding phone calls for future turtle adoptions because starting in July people can adopt a turtle by calling 311.
In July, construction to renovate the ponds will begin after waterfowl nesting cycles complete.
The city of Sacramento is improving these ponds by restoring them to serve as both park amenities and a wildlife resource. The projects are in the design phase; therefore, the wildlife constraints and opportunities are being evaluated continually and on a pond-by-pond basis.
McKinley Pond contains about 90 non-native red-eared sliders that will need to be relocated during pond renovations. The three ponds in Land Park also contain red-eared sliders; however, they occur at a lower density than at McKinley Pond. Waterfowl also use both parks’ ponds and there is an unknown fish population in each pond. It is anticipated that the ponds will need to be drained, cleaned and reconstructed as part of the renovation process.

best turtlesIt was decided the non-natives can’t return to the ponds and language in the restoration pond contract discussed euthanizing the turtles. Two years ago, Felice said her club was asked to foster them before returning them back to the ponds. Since then, it’s been deemed against the law, but fortunately with the help from members of the Land Park Community Association Felice and other residents, language has been changed to not include euthanize when referring to the relocation of the ponds’ turtles.
Felice takes issue with the fact that after the ponds are drained non-native red-eared sliders, the most popular turtles occupying the ponds, can’t be returned to their homes. “There is no reason for the turtles to be evicted from their home forever … My grandsons area all grown up and they remember seeing (the turtles) as children and the city council wants to get rid of something people have enjoyed for years and years – it’s just not fair,” she said. She also fears that in July, the baby turtles won’t actually be saved. “I think the trucks that will be there will compact the earth so hard that the babies will not be able to dig out.  Won’t there be duck eggs there too?  What about frogs?  The more you think, the worse it gets…
“The one good thing that has happened is I now have a bunch of new people to give turtles to me that land here after being found running down the street.”
Having adopted turtles and tortoises out since 1975, Felice thinks she may be the only legitimate turtle and tortoise rescue in Sacramento, with a rubber stamp of approval from the California Department Fish and Game. “My home is a hotel, hospital, hospice, orphanage and maternity ward all for turtles and tortoises and there is no charge although if people want to donate, the money goes into the Sick Turtle Fund,” she says.
Felice has an adoption form people fill out and from that, she can tell fairly well, if they are qualified or not by their answers to the questions. Dogs can and do often kill the turtles (as to raccoons) and they are not a suitable pet for small children and should never be trapped in a fish tank.  It’s cruel and they become very deformed, if they live at all, she says.

2.turtles and rainbow reflection from playground

Rick Stevenson of the Land Park Volunteer Corps monitors William Land Park daily and described McKinley Pond’s situation different from Land Park’s.
“In McKinley, they have the problem of collecting animals. But at Land Park, if one (pond) is drained, the turtles will move on their own (to a different pond).” Additionally, while volunteers at McKinley advocated for not deepening the pond, Stevenson said they want deeper ponds in Land Park. “In summer, when it’s so hot, when water is too shallow, oxygen it goes down and we get big fish kills.
They’re completely different situations because they are different ponds.”
While about 90 turtles have been identified in McKinley Pond, Rick said they won’t get a good idea in Land Park until the ponds are drained, though he noted Lily Pond doesn’t have any turtles.
Over on Duck Lake, the turtles sun themselves and Rick said he’s seen them vary in size from 3 to 10 inches long. He’s also seen a turtle dig a hole in the walkway inside the WPA rock garden and lay eggs. “I had never seen a turtle lay eggs. I didn’t bother turtle at all,” he said. “I have seen them on Land Park Drive in over a seven-year period and I picked them up, the ones that got hit by cars. Normally, they stick to the ponds. They don’t travel much beyond the rock garden … They got a pretty good gig there. Nice big pond, everything they need. It’s good turtle territory.”

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