While out trapping turtles last week, INHS researchers caught something special—the Smooth Softshell, an Illinois state-threatened turtle species.
The Smooth Softshell inhabits larger rivers and prefers to bask, nest, and conceal itself in sandy areas, like emergent sand bars. It takes only seconds for this turtle to completely bury itself in the sand, lying just deep enough for its long, pointed snout to reach the surface for air, like a snorkel.
“It’s a good field day when I document the occupancy of a state listed species,” says Andrew Kuhns, a herpetologist with the INHS Biotic Survey and Assessment Program (BSAP).
BSAP researchers work with the Illinois Department of Transportation to minimize the effects of transportation projects on the local plants and animals, like the Smooth Softshell.
The BSAP research team spent three days trapping turtles along a one-mile stretch of river.
Their efforts were rewarded.
The researchers caught 12 Smooth Softshell among other, more common turtle species—Spiny Softshell, Snapping Turtle, and Slider. These findings suggest that many Smooth Softshells inhabit this section of the river.
“Having found the species at the site, the relevant parties can now work together to determine the best ways to complete the project while minimizing impacts to this threatened species,” Kuhns said.