FSU Biology Student Helps Lakeless Turtles

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


May 26, 2000
CONTACTS: David Cook (850) 921-5985
Matt Aresco (850) 562-3093

The spectacular disappearance of Lake Jackson down its sinkholes has forced the lake's fish to crowd into its remaining pools, but it's caused the turtle population to scatter. Unfortunately, turtles don't make good highway pedestrians, and many motorists are alarmed by the large number of turtles trying, frequently unsuccessfully, to cross U.S. 27 at the west end of the lake bed.

Recently, however, a Florida State University (FSU) graduate student put a stop to the vehicular death toll on turtles in that area. Matt Aresco, a Ph.D. candidate in FSU's Department of Biology, has erected a half-mile-long "drift fence" at the edge of the right-of-way, using silt fencing material donated by the Florida Department of Transportation. In the few weeks since Aresco installed the fence, he has recorded and rescued more than 1,200 individual turtles that were intercepted by the fence, not including those that were diverted into the culvert to Little Lake Jackson, which still has water.

Aresco is carefully collecting data on all turtles captured as part of his research, so it is important that the fence and animals are not disturbed in any way.

In addition to Lake Jackson, the drought in North Florida has caused many other lakes and ponds in Leon County and surrounding areas to dry up. David Cook, wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), reports that several local residents have expressed concern over the fate of turtles that have lost their aquatic habitat. Although such dry-downs are natural phenomena, and none of the resident turtle species is endangered, Cook concedes that it is difficult to just stand by while wildlife of any kind perishes.

Area wildlife rehabilitators who will attempt to find good homes for displaced turtles, and who can provide medical attention to injured wildlife are:

Wildlife rehabilitators rely on donations and volunteers to care for sick and injured wildlife.


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