Shell disease challenges work to restore endangered western pond turtle

first_imgCOLUMBIA RIVER GORGE — The two western pond turtles kept trying to swim in midair as wildlife biologist Stefanie Bergh detailed the differences between the healthy turtle and the one with shell disease.For years, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and its partners have been reintroducing young western pond turtles into the wild. On Tuesday morning, experts collected adult turtles suffering from shell disease — a mysterious, difficult-to-cure and sometimes fatal disorder.Experts are in the midst of a three-year effort to learn the cause of the disease and how to prevent it by collecting, treating, and studying the affected turtles and the water they live in.The program is focused on getting answers to open questions. Is it contagious? Is it hereditary? Does it affect reproduction? Is it curable?At a location in Klickitat County, researchers placed 20 traps in three different ponds. Bergh and two volunteer interns from Oregon State University checked each trap during the morning session.Not all the turtles they found were infected. As Bergh held two small turtles, she noted their health. “This is the whole goal,” Bergh said: “Healthy young wild turtles.” The healthy turtles’ shells look shiny and dark and feel hard and smooth. Other turtles with signs of shell disease look bleached and dull and felt soft and rough.last_img read more