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Turtle Census


In summer 2010, Virginia Living Museum Education and Herpetology staff began a multi-year research project to monitor the population changes of freshwater turtles in a local watershed over time. The goals were to see what percentage of these turtles were native and non-native and to provide an educational platform for students, volunteers and guests to learn about native turtles and what happens when people release pets into the wild.


TURTLE CENSUE 7-22 (14)Every year in June and July we pick three days to set out live-capture, baited hoop nets in Deer Park Lake. The next day we go out, gather all of the turtles that we collected in these nets, and do the following:

  • Identify the species of turtle and whether it’s male or female.
  • Clean the shell to remove any stuck-on algae.
  • Determine whether this is a new turtle or a recapture.

Visitors are welcome to watch VLM staff conduct theTURTLE CENSUE 7-22 (32)
Turtle Census in the Children’s Garden from 10am – 12pm.
The 2019 Turtles Census dates are:

  •  27 Turtles including 2 snapping turtles

If new turtle

  • Take measurements of its size and record any physical injuries or any other noteworthy observations.
  • Using our numbering system, we mark the edges of the shell by making notches that correspond to the turtle’s ID. The marking process is completely painless, much like filing a fingernail.

If recapture

  • Determine the ID Number.
  • Take new measurements of its size to monitor growth rate.
  • Make notes of any new injuries or other observations.
  • Refresh any marks that may have faded over time.
  • Release the turtle back into the lake.


Males vs. Females Caught to Date

  • Female (64%)

  • Male (36%)

Native Species vs Non-native Species Caught to Date

  • Non-native Species (52%)

  • Native Species (48%)

Different Species Collected

  • Red-eared Slider (39%)

  • Northern Red-bellied Cooter(13%)

  • Eastern Painted Turtle(26%)

  • Slider Intergrade(13%)

  • Yellow-bellied Slider(2%)

  • Musk Turtle (6%)

  • Mud Turtle(1%)

“Slider Intergrade” is actually a hybridization of the native Yellow Belly Slider (Trachemys scripta scripta) and the non-native Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans).


What we have observed from our data to date

  • We have caught more Red-Eared Sliders than other turtles.
  • Of the turtles we have caught, there have been more non-native turtles than all other native turtle species combined.
  • For whatever reason, we catch nearly twice as many females than males.

For information and data about previous years, please click on the links below:

2010      2011     2012     2013     2014