Trumbull County's wildlife officer trapped an animal that wasn't supposed to exist here.
SPECIAL TO THE VINDICATOR
AKRON - Brian Banbury, the officer covering Trumbull County for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, recently made a unique discovery in the Ohio woods with the successful capture of a rare wood turtle.
The reptile is a species that was not supposed to exist in the Buckeye state according to most experts.
Not by chance: Banbury's discovery did not come by chance although there was some luck involved. In the fall of 2000 Banbury found the shell of a dead wood turtle. Encouraged by this discovery and what appeared to be suitable habitat for this species of turtle, Banbury spent the winter designing and constructing turtle traps.
"I had nothing to base the design on since there had been very little research done in this area," he said.
Guessing at what to use for bait Banbury chose sardines and set his traps. In just two days he was rewarded with an excellent wood turtle specimen. "It was the last trap I checked that day. He was all muddy but when I flipped him over and saw the telltale yellow and black pattern I started jumping up and down and screaming. I was ecstatic. I thought I'd be lucky to catch a baby by the end of summer. To get one in two days was incredible," the officer said.
Judging by the size of the turtle's shell or carapace Banbury estimated the animal could be as old as 60 years. After studying the turtle for a time Banbury returned it to its home area in the wild.
Endangered: While it is not illegal to trap turtles in Ohio, the wood turtle is considered endangered in most states. Because wood turtles have rarely been found in Ohio the species has never been classified here.
"We occasionally get reports of people finding a wood turtle in an area where it was likely to have been a released captive animal or individual turtles found along the border of a neighboring state," said Carolyn Caldwell, Assistant Administrator in Wildlife Management and Research of the Division of Wildlife.
"The turtle Brian trapped may be a released animal. However, because of the remote location, we're optimistic that if Brian traps some younger turtles, we may have a small native Ohio population. We'll then have to evaluate the species status and if warranted designate the species as endangered," she said.
Loss of habitat and commercial collecting are the major reasons wood turtle population has declined throughout its range.