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Portland’s primary drinking water supply, the Bull Run Watershed, depends mostly on rain rather than snow, making it more resilient to warming temperatures.
He knew immediately that this was a special find, so he hopped out of his rig, measured its shell, and snapped a quick photo of the animal before it continued on its way through the forest.
It turned out that the watershed specialist had found a Western pond turtle (Emys marmorata, sometimes Actinemys marmorata), one of only two native freshwater turtle species in the state. Moreover, the Western pond turtle is a critically sensitive species in Oregon, and is a priority at-risk species for the Oregon Conservation Strategy created by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).
According to ODFW, Western pond turtles “are a priority species of conservation concern because they have experienced significant population declines in many parts of their ranges and continue to be highly vulnerable to habitat loss and other anthropogenic (human) impacts.”
The turtle was crossing a road at a point where either side is lined with dense forest, nearly a mile from any pond or reservoir. However, although pond turtles seek warm waters and sunlit logs for basking in late spring and summer, in winter they use upland terrestrial habitats where they may hibernate in underground burrows or the forest duff.
Interestingly, Western pond turtles are long lived. They don’t breed until they are seven to 12 years old and may live 50 years or more in the wild.