The Western Painted Turtle – Intermountain – Rocky Mountain Population (Chrysemys picta pop. 2) is British Columbia’s only native freshwater turtle species and it is provincially blue-listed.  Turtles need to obtain heat from their environment to thermoregulate.  They need to actively seek out warm microhabitats and bask in the sun to elevate their body temperature, which is particularly important in spring and fall when ambient temperatures are low. Basking can occur several times a day, usually for several hours beginning at sunrise (before feeding occurs) and sometimes again in the afternoon and evening. 

Turtles require basking features such as logs or other surfaces onto which they can easily climb onto and warm themselves (by thermoregulation) from their environment. Basking is a required part of a turtle’s life history and the lack of woody debris poses a problem for turtles. Basking raises a turtle’s body temperature to a suitable level, which is required for foraging and mating.  Raising the body temperature also helps the turtle digest its food, provides an essential source of Vitamin D, and helps reduce ectoparasites on the turtle’s body.

Recently the Lake Windermere District Rod & Gun Club engaged in a part of the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners Western Painted Turtle Project and placed basking logs in ponds where basking logs were lacking or in short supply (determined through inventory work in 2020). A deficiency of basking sites in certain areas of the Columbia Valley could force turtles to compete with predators or other larger animals such as skunks or dogs that are also more aggressive than turtles, for basking sites.

The main objectives of the basking turtle component of this project are to enhance the turtles’ habitat by designing and installing lightweight and natural-looking basking structures, and to investigate turtle basking habits and preferences.  Rod & Gun members have created basking logs from cedar hydro poles donated by BC Hydro. The poles have had their ends cut on an angle for turtles to climb onto and the top was flattened slightly for basking. Anchor bolts were placed on each log to and an anchor was attached.  Cement blocks were used for anchoring logs in place which were donated by Barry Brown-John.

The ponds selected this year for baking log deployment were Dorothy Lake, pond below Canfor Radium Mill (just over the track along Horsethief Forestry Rd), and Armstrong Bay within Columbia Lake. Placement of logs have taken place in April until mid-May. Some logs were attached to the shoreline and others were left floating in shallow water.

The project biologist (Rachel Darvill of Goldeneye Ecological Services) is overseeing the project and is looking for volunteers to assist with monitoring the basking logs.  If interested, please send an email to cvpainterturtle@gmail.comto sign up and to receive detailed instructions and a data form.

The Rod & Gun Club wants to thank BC Hydro, Barry Brown-John, Richard Halverson for welding the anchor bolts together, Rona, CP Rail and club members who contributed to this basking log project.

This stewardship project was part of Kootenay Connect, a biodiversity conservation project managed by the Kootenay Conservation Program and funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada with funding contributions from the Columbia Basin Trust and the Regional District of East Kootenay’s Columbia Valley Local Conservation Program that is co-administered by the Kootenay Conservation Program as well.