Life is warming up for McGuire Lake’s painted turtle population.
And that’s good news.
These cold-blooded animals need a daily dose of sun-basking warmth in order to carry out their daily lives.
“They need it for energy for feeding and for their metabolism,” says BC Conservation Foundation wildlife technician and habitat restoration specialist Deanna MacTavish. “This is especially important during mating and nesting season.”
MacTavish is a member of a four-person team who spent last week adding turtle-friendly amenities to McGuire Lake.
As part of the turtle habitat improvement project, the team installed 11 basking logs in the lake, three of them attached together to form a larger basking platform.
With a high vehicle mortality rate in mind, the team also has plans to discourage the turtles from crossing Eighth Avenue to lay their eggs in residential gardens.
“Road mortality is a huge issue we have to deal with all over the province,” she says, noting installation of a drift fence along the roadway would be an effective tool in keeping the endangered species from making the perilous trip.
The team surveyed the lake for a possible nesting beach and identified an excellent location that gets sun throughout the day, says MacTavish, noting area residents have reported seeing turtles nest in the northeast site near the hospital in the past.
MacTavish is hoping to be back in Salmon Arm in the spring in order to install the nesting beach.
Once the beach is available, anyone seeing a turtle attempting to cross the road is asked to retrieve it and carry it to the beach area – or help them across in whatever direction they’re heading.
Brad Ackerman, Salmon Arm’s manager of Parks and Recreation says the city is partnering with the Conservation Foundation and BCIT to evaluate and improve the habitat.
“This wasn’t done as a direct result of local complaints,” he says. “The whole goal of McGuire lake is to have it as a outdoor classroom, to find out about the ecology of the habitat and raise awareness.”
Ackerman says he would like to see students using the lake as an outdoor lab on school field trips. Earlier this year city workers removed the dock used for the kid’s fishing program that was closed down earlier this summer.
Ackerman says there is a possibility the program will be reinstated next year in Canoe or in Salmon Arm Bay. But he’s not making promises.