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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 273-9097.
— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer