You won't spot the spotted turtle much longer
This endangered reptile battles the city of Chicago for land space. But the developing area prevails over the small speckled creature.
Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 17:01
Photo: Center for Reptile and Amphibian Conservation and Management
The spotted turtle seems to have run out of good luck. The endangered reptile picked the wrong land area to call home, and today is suffering the consequences.
"Unfortunately for them, their natural range clips the rural northeastern portion of
. That's where the city of Illinois Chicago is now," said Dr. Chris Phillips, professor at the . University of Illinois Natural History Survey
The species settled in rural northern
Illinois before developed into the city that it is today. Now the spotted turtle can only be found in two locations in Will County, Ill. Chicago
"We've done research on the two populations over the last five years and the data on birth rates doesn't look all that good. Our model suggests a 50/50 chance they'll be gone in the next 50 years," said Phillips.
The small, semi-aquatic turtle gets its name from its yellow-orange spots on the shell and limbs. They're small, reaching a grown carapace of 12.5 cm. The spotted turtle often gets confused with the
midwest's most popular turtle, the painted turtle.
However, unlike the painted turtle, the spotted turtle has become endangered in the last 10 years.
"There are a lot of endangered species in
. I could easily give you three or four different answers, but an endangered species in Illinois that we've seen in the last 10 years is the spotted turtle," said Phillips. Illinois
The spotted turtle population extends beyond the Great Lakes region to the eastern coastline, found in every state between
Maine and . Florida
Yet here in the
, our polka-dotted reptile friends just face bad luck, and there's nothing we humans can do to help. land of Lincoln
"The only thing we can do now is restoration. But in
, you can't take a Wal-Mart or a Hyatt and turn it into a marsh, that's not possible. Population wise, their numbers are too small and there's not enough land for them," said Phillips. Chicago
The turtles' absence doesn't take a huge hit on the ecosystem, but the forest preserves sure do miss them.
"Spotted turtles don't play a vital role in the ecosystem today. They aren't like snakes maintaining rodent population control or anything, but there is the absence atheistic. If you're walking in the marsh, their presence isn't there anymore," he said.