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Happy Turtle Day! MN using federal money to track, protect turtles

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May 23 is the day folks around the world slow down enough to appreciate turtles.

And on World Turtle Day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Minnesota and two of its neighbors (Wisconsin and Iowa) are getting a new round of funding to protect and study turtles that have low or declining populations.

What's making it tough on turtles?

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) says the three biggest challenges are:

  • Nesting sites are getting harder to find
  • Getting run over on roads is a problem
  • Predators raid turtle nests

Four Midwestern states started a project two years ago to protect nesting sites and try to lower mortality rates, especially for wood turtles, smooth softshell turtles, and ornate box turtles.

Three of the states (sorry, Michigan) were successful enough that they're getting new grants to keep tracking turtles, the FWS says.

The states will keep managing existing turtle nesting areas, identify and protect new ones, and share the results of their turtle activity.

What makes for good turtle habitat?

Soft, sandy soil or gravel for laying a nest, not many predators close by, and access to food – insects, berries, earthworms, mollusks, mushrooms.

Oh, and not too much litter. The Minnesota DNR shares the story of Peanut, a turtle in Missouri who got a six-pack ring stuck around her shell when she was a youngster. Peanut grew up with the ring squeezing her midsection.

It's estimated that she had the ring around her for four years before she was discovered and taken to a zoo where it was removed. The DNR says some of Peanut's organs don't work right but she's been living under the care of the Missouri Department of Conservation for more than 20 years now.

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