Herp Update: Critical Habitat Protection – February 11, 2022

Herp Update: Critical Habitat Protection – February 11, 2022

Protection of Critical Habitat

Herpers, as of this week, the state of Vermont has for the first time designated specific areas of habitat as critical habitat to be protected for two state-listed species.

This has been in the works for a few years and as far as I know, Vermont is the only state that now has the ability to list and protect critical habitat for endangered and threatened species.  In the past, we could protect the individual critter, but not its habitat. For instance, you could not harass or kill a Spiny Softshell  (turtle), but you could destroy one of its few remaining nesting beaches.  Now, we have four of the remaining known nesting beaches for this species protected.  Here is a quote from a Fish and Wildlife announcement that came out yesterday.

Four state-threatened Spiny Softshell Turtle nesting beaches [have been designated] as critical habitat. These four Lake Champlain nesting beaches are managed by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and were selected based on multiple years of monitoring and each site supporting on average, at least five Spiny Softshell nests annually.   [These] four Lake Champlain beach sites collectively account for a large proportion of all Spiny Softshell nesting activity in Vermont. Three beaches are state-owned, the fourth is privately owned, and the proposal has landowner support.

The photos below were taken by Ron Haskell, Kiley Briggs, Josh Lincoln, and Kristen Bachand.  Notice the huge size difference (sexual dimorphism) between the adult male on the left and the adult female on the right in Ron Haskell’s photo.   Kiley’s photo shows a typical hunting/hiding position of the turtle with its body buried in the substrate in shallow water and only its head and neck sticking out.  Josh’s photo shows a turtle basking and Kristen’s photo shows a typical nesting beach.

Adult male Spiny Softshell Turtle on the left and the (much larger) adult female Spiny Softshell Turtle on the right, both in shallow water. Photo copyright Ron Haskell and used by permission.

Spiny Softshell turtle in typical hunting/hiding position: its body is buried in the substrate (here, small, flat, slaty rocks) in shallow water and only its head and neck sticking out. Photo copyright Kiley Briggs and used with permission.

Spiny Shoftshell turtle basking on a barkless log, in the sun. Photo copyright Josh Lincoln and used with permisson.

Spiny Softshell turtle on the sandy portion of a lakeside beach, with water in background, sandy surface in midground, short green grass-like plants in foreground. Photo copyright Kristen Bachand and used with permission.

Jim Andrews


“Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.” (Kenneth Boulding, 1973)

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