- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Wildlife biologist Ramsey Langford has been busy over the past several months.

And at least two of the rare spotted turtles he helps to find have been busy with their own survival plan.

In the spring, Langford found the first spotted turtle in Summit County in at least 10 years. That discovery led to finding seven additional spotted turtles in Summit Metro Parks - one a female carrying three eggs.

“It’s been a very good year,” Langford said of his pursuit of the state-threatened turtles with their distinctive yellow spots. “We had some luck.”

Two of the eggs survived and hatched in mid-August.

Dr. Gary Riggs of the Barberton Veterinary Clinic in Norton is caring for the tiny baby turtles - each about an inch long. In a few weeks, the hatchlings will be shipped to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, where they will be raised for two to three years before being returned to Summit Metro Parks to be released back into the wild.

“Yes, we have more spotted turtles than we thought we had,” Langford said. “That’s good news, but the numbers are still low, and we need to make good, informed management decisions to help them survive.”

Spotted turtles seem to favor shallow wetlands instead of ponds and streams and frequently can be found moving through meadows and woodlands, Langford said.

The species is sensitive to pollutants and toxic chemicals and disappears with declining water quality. Its numbers have dwindled in many areas because of loss of habitat as wetlands are drained for farming and development.

Increasing numbers can be a sign of improved water quality in the area.

Langford’s busy stretch began with a female turtle being found in a trap in southern Summit County. Its shell was 4½ inches long, its overall body was 5½ inches in length and it weighed 4½ ounces.

The turtle was photographed, and an identification chip and a tracking transmitter were implanted. Estimated at 3½ years old, the turtle was released back into the Firestone Metro Park area. (The exact location was not disclosed to help prevent collectors from trying to capture it.)

Langford then found two more spotted turtles in northern Summit County.

Later, a caller to the Akron Beacon Journal claimed knowledge of a spotted turtle colony in southern Summit County. The call was directed to Langford, who found five more turtles at that location.

“That was an awesome lead that led to a nice population,” he said of the phone call.

Of the eight mature turtles, four are male, four female.

X-ray detected the eggs in a female. The offspring hatched Aug. 19.

“They are tiny, very tiny,” Langford said of the hatchlings and are being fed tiny blood worms.

Summit Metro Parks participates in a multi-agency effort to aid the spotted turtle by recovering eggs when possible and helping young spotted turtles survive the first years of their lives in captivity.

Preservation efforts include the Medina County Park District, Lake Metroparks, Geauga Park District, Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Greater Cleveland Aquarium, with financial support from Wild4Forever, a grass-roots animal conservation group based in Norton.

Two 2½-year-old spotted turtles are living comfortably at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo from earlier efforts.

The Summit County hatchlings won’t be on display at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium but will be raised behind the scenes until they are old enough to survive on their own, Langford said.

They then will be returned to Summit Metro Parks and released in the same area where their mother was captured, he said.

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Information from: Akron Beacon Journal, http://www.ohio.com

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