Calling all turtle spotters

Calling all turtle spotters-attachment0

The French Broad Riverkeeper, Hartwell Carson, and Gabrielle Graeter, a wildlife biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, teamed up last week in an effort to find and study the rare Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle. This turtle is listed as a species of special concern in North Carolina, as outlined in the N.C. Wildlife Action Plan. Very little is known about this turtle and the last documented sighting in this section of the French Broad River occurred in 1984. The turtles have a flexible, pancake-like shaped body, a long neck and a pointed nose.

The goal of the study is to identify where Eastern Spinies are in Western North Carolina. Numerous turtle traps will be set and monitored throughout the summer in an effort to better understand this turtle’s status and distribution. Data are collected on the captured turtles and then they are released. This study will help the Wildlife Resources Commission understand if this turtle species is truly a species of concern to anyone besides other Eastern Spinies.

The study is off to a promising start.  Carson reports that several turtles have been spotted basking on rocks in the French Broad River and a few have been captured in traps. “This is a good sign that despite little documented evidence, these turtles might be thriving in and around the French Broad River.”

If you see this turtle in the mountain region, contact Graeter via e-mail at or 273-9097.

— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer

About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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