Steeves/Trail Mix: You too can have fun yet contribute to science

Citizen scientists are being asked to help gather data on species such as monarch butterflies and turtles for conservation purposes in B.C.

The native Western painted turtle sports bright red or orange underneath

The native Western painted turtle sports bright red or orange underneath

It can’t be that difficult for outdoors people to keep an eye out for butterflies and turtles, and the effort can be vital to conservation of species and to resource managers.

There are groups and individual biologists interested particularly in the monarch butterfly and in the native Western painted turtle, as well as the invasive red-eared slider turtle.

So, if you spot a turtle in your travels around B.C., look closely to determine whether it’s a native Western painted turtle or the red-eared slider, which is a species commonly sold in pet shops and sometimes released by irresponsible owners in a local wetland, where it often out-competes native turtles for food and habitat.

Sliders have a red ‘ear’ on the side of their face, while the native turtle does not, and the underneath shell of the painted turtle is red or orange rather than yellow like the non-native species.

Then, count the number of each species you see and write that down, along with the location in which you’ve found them. The name of the pond is inadequate information. Instead use your GPS to locate it or take a photo and locate it using google earth; Google imapBC.

Even if you see a pond or wetland and see no turtles, that information is also helpful.

Add your name and contact information and e-mail the data to Orville at:

Painted turtles are blue-listed provincially and of special concern nationally. This is the northern extreme of their habitat and ponds and wetlands are disappearing, so habitat is a concern.

For conservation purposes, any information you can add to this survey would be helpful in completion of a management plan for this species.

There’s also a survey of monarch butterflies, their eggs and larva underway, particularly relevant because there is apparently an exceptionally early migration this year of monarchs from their overwintering grounds in Mexico, with some being reported as far north as Edmonton, Alberta this year.

Don Davis of Monarch Watch, who is also secretary of the Monarch Butterfly Fund, writes from Toronto that  he has been studying and tagging monarchs since 1968 and local observations would be most helpful.

He requests reports and photographs be recorded at the reporting website: including the date, name of observer and location of the sighting, with the closest town or village, or latitude/longitude.

Milkweed is a key plant in monarch butterfly reproduction, yet it’s a plant that has long been considered a weed by farmers, so there are only patches left around the Okanagan.

There’s also a new site for reporting local sightings of other butterflies:

Mind you, all our efforts at citizen science have been negated this week by our federal government stepping backwards in time by gutting our Fisheries Act and its provisions to protect those resources from destruction and replacing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act with a weaker version—all part of what was ostensibly a budget bill—but which actually contained dozens and dozens of amendments to totally-unrelated legislation as a way of ramming those changes through parliament.

Such sneaky and underhanded behaviour is a most despicable way to run a country.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.



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