Turtle Observers

slider turtles and western ponds photo by sami kreling
Can you spot the western pond turtle on this log? Hint: It's the only one of its kind. All the others are non-native red-eared slider turtles. See the answer at the bottom of this page.
Volunteer Turtle Observers 
The western pond turtle, Actinemys marmorata, is a federally listed vulnerable species. These are the only fresh water turtles native to California, and they can be found around Phoenix, Lagunitas, and Alpine Lakes in the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed.

MMWD has enlisted the help of volunteers to protect this vulnerable animal by monitoring habitat conditions, recording their behavior, and educating the public during the spring when they are most vulnerable. Volunteers have collected valuable data on native and non-native turtles that is helping to direct the management of these species.
Did you know?
  • The western pond turtle has a life span of over 40 years.
  • During the winter, the turtles live in underground burrows in upland habitats.
  • In late spring, the females find a nesting site away from the water and lay eggs in a shallow hole that they cover with dirt. Nests and migrating turtles are highly susceptible to predators, unsuspecting hikers, and bicyclists.

"Ruffles the Turtle" by Turtle Observer Kathy Tama

Ruffles the Turtle by Kathy Tama 2014
Turtle Observer Program Results
How did we do in 2015?
We really appreciate all of the hard work our volunteers put in to monitoring the turtles and educating the public this season. Without their efforts none of this valuable data could be collected. During the 2015 season there were 27 new volunteers trained, 12 who participated in observations and ten volunteers who returned from previous years. Our 22 volunteers observed for 91 total hours on 63 separate visits.

  • 130 western pond turtles (210 last year)
  • 607 red-eared sliders (948 last year)
  • 75 unidentified non-native turtles (274 last year)
  • 80 unknown turtles on the MMWD watershed (134 last year)
The 2015 population estimates for all lakes, based on single-day high counts, was 29 western pond turtles (41 last year) and 176 non-native turtles (168 last year).

Thank you to this year's volunteers: Alex, Andre, Brynn, Enoch, Grace, Kathleen, Kathy, Katrina, Kendra, Lauryn, Lorri, Mara, Marge, Nicolas, Phoebe, Rochelle, Sadie, Sami, Satya, Shelly, Tracy, and Wyoming!

Areas Monitored
  • The dam and shoreline of Lake Lagunitas
  • The shoreline of Alpine Lake along Bullfrog Trail
  • Alpine Lake below Bon Tempe Dam
  • The shoreline of Phoenix Lake on Phoenix Lake Trail and Shafter Grade Road
Turtle observations were recorded from March through the first week of June.

Trapping of non-native turtles was resumed in 2015 and took place in the Bullfrog Creek arm of Alpine Lake. Trapping success was marginal as the traps were places after a peak activity period for the location but did result in the removal of 15 non-native turtles from the watershed.

Summary Report
For more details about the 2015 turtle program results, please see Turtle Observer Program Report 2015.

Answer to question at top of page: The western pond turtle is the third one from the left in the top photo.

Remember: Please don't release your pet turtle in the wild!