Protect Our Turtles!
Six Known Species at Coastal Heritage Preserve
by Greg Hall, Habitat & Stewardship Coordinator for Artist Boat
The Coastal Heritage Preserve is Part of the Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes ecoregion as defined by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD). There are six known turtle species present on the Preserve, and all six of them are afforded some level of special regulation via the TPWD Black List, barring the collection of these animals for commercial purposes. Five of these turtles are listed by TPWD as Species of Greatest Conservation Need within our ecoregion, only the Eastern Mud Turtle doesn’t make this list, but it is still protected from commercial harvest by the TPWD Blacklist.
|Three-toed Box Turtle||Greg Hall|
|Ornate Box Turtle||Greg Hall|
Two species of Box turtles inhabit the Coastal Prairies of the Preserve, the Three-toed Box Turtle (Considered a sub sp. of Eastern Box Turtle by TPWD) and the Ornate Box Turtle, are listed as Vulnerable, and Near Threatened species respectively, along with blacklist protection and status as Species of Greatest Conservation Need granted to them by the state. In the past 20 years, their local populations on Galveston Island have taken a plunge. Today you are lucky to ever find one of either species on Galveston Island, but over the last 3 years, the staff of Artist Boat has documented both species on the Preserve. The main contributor to their decline has been habitat loss.
|Red-eared Slider||Greg Hall|
|Common Snapping Turtle||Greg Hall|
The Red-eared Slider, a subspecies of the Pond Slider, and the Common Snapping Turtle are both protected on the Blacklist from commercial harvests. They are also a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. They, today, seem quite numerous, but if they follow the trend of other native turtles we will need every one of them that exists inside their native range to ensure a healthy and large population moving forward.
|Texas Diamondback Terrapin||Greg Hall|
The Texas Diamondback Terrapin, a subspecies of the Diamondback Terrapin is listed as a Threatened Species so it is afforded Protections above and beyond all of these other turtles. Many of these animals were trapped or caught, having once been considered a delicacy. They also become trapped and unable to surface for air in both functional and abandoned crab traps. These things contributed to their decline in population.
|Eastern Mud Turtle||Greg Hall|
|Spiny Softshell Turtle||Greg Hall|
In conclusion, every known species of turtle that inhabits the Coastal Heritage Preserve is in enough trouble that TPWD has afforded them some level of protection either by the Blacklist or by other measures. They are also protected by the ongoing efforts of Artist Boat to manage 690 acres of conserved land and to purchase more land that these imperiled animals utilize as habitat.
All of this is very technical and scientific, but I think also sometimes we need to speak from the heart about what a thing means to us. As a longtime enthusiast of reptiles and amphibians, I have spent my entire life on some level representing and drawing attention to the plight of these very special animals. In my career in outreach, I have been lucky enough to care for and own many turtles as educational outreach animals. They are very intelligent, and endearing animals with individual personalities, preferences, and habits. These animals have a right to exist, and each day humanity encroaches more and more on that right. It means a lot to Artist Boat that these animals have a safe place to live their lives. Your donations continue to make that possible, so your donations also mean so much to our organization and every animal we protect.
Thank you for your support,
Habitat & Stewardship Coordinator
Artist Boat Coastal Heritage Preserve