Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Invaders on the Tuolumne River!

I know I seem easily distracted. I'm working on two blog series at the moment, my explorations in Hawai'i, and our recently completed journey through the Pacific Northwest. But that's the joy of blogging. I can write about anything I want, when I want! The thing is, adventures never end. Even though I am back home, and back to the usual things, I still have the occasional adventure, however modest it might be. I'm keeping up with the walking exercise, for instance, so I've been down to the Tuolumne River a couple of times since getting home. Today I saw something new in the river: some turtles.

I don't know much about turtles, so I snapped some pictures before they slid into the river. I immediately took to my phone to identify it, hoping it would be a native variety, but found out right away that it was an invasive species, specifically the Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans). The only native species in this area is the Western Pond Turtle, but the red streak was distinctive to the Slider.
I quickly learned that the Red-eared Slider was the one I remembered from my youth, the cute little "dime-store turtles" they used to sell decades ago as pets. The problem, as always seems to be the case, is that the cute little baby turtles soon outgrew their terrariums, and people released them into the local streams and rivers. They became well-established and spread quickly, displacing the native species. They are now one of only two reptiles on the list of 100 of the World's Worst Invasive Alien Species (the other is the Brown Tree Snake that decimated the native birds of Guam; I don't know how the Pythons of Florida missed the list). So my river trail is under siege. During the drought, River Hyacinth choked the river. This week I found that Star Thistle had taken root along the trail (somehow they became unrooted today; I hope for good). I don't know if anyone is acting on the turtles. They seem benign enough; they are just making their living in an environment that they can thrive in, but they also contribute to the undoing of the ecosystem.

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