There is an invasive species alert in BC for two very damaging introductions, the American Bullfrog and the Red-Eared Slider turtle.
American Bullfrogs were originally introduced into B.C. by humans wanting to farm them for their meaty legs. They were also imported by aquatic garden supply companies for stocking backyard ponds. Populations can increase rapidly as females are able to lay up to 20,000 eggs per year. American Bullfrog dispersal is aided by their abilities to migrate over land, feed on a wide range of prey, thrive in human disturbed habitats, and the tendency for humans to catch and release them into new habitats.
American Bullfrogs have established populations on Vancouver Island between Victoria to Campbell River, west to Port Alberni, as well as on some Gulf Islands and the Lower Mainland. The one known population in the Okanagan has been eradicated, but one newly introduced population was detected in the Kootenay region in 2015. They could likely survive well in the Interior so any sitings that can lead to early eradication is important. They eat literally anything that will fit into their mouths, including birds, snakes, and other amphibians.
More information about the American Bullfrog is here.
Red-Eared Slider Turtles
If you’ve spotted a turtle with a yellow belly, “red ears”, or a bold yellow Z-stripe on the side of its face, you are looking at an abandoned pet. Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) and Yellowbelly Sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta) can live to 50 years old, and grow to over 30 cm (12 inches) long. Pet owners that find themselves unwilling to honour a life-long commitment to their turtles look to the great outdoors – Instead of responsibly finding their pet a new home or surrendering pets to an animal shelter. Yes, many turtles – at least 6 species – have been abandoned in our lakes and ponds. Unfortunately, the wild is not the place for domestically raised, non-native species. Of all the species released here in BC, only one – the Red-eared Slider – is released in sufficient number to allow males and females to find each other.
Red-eared Sliders are among the top 100 worst invaders recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It now poses a serious risk to coexisting with Western Painted Turtles. We have found that Sliders frequently have respiratory disease when rescued from the wild, and this could be spread to native Painted Turtles. Disease is not the only problem, introduced Sliders compete with native turtles for basking habitat, food, and nesting sites. Not only that, but Sliders increase pressure on other species as they gobble up plants, crustaceans, aquatic insects, snails, amphibians, and their eggs. As bigger turtles, Sliders can easily dominate basking logs. Basking spots are not only a nice place to catch some sun, they are essential to maintaining healthy metabolic rate and digestive function in Painted Turtles. These turtles have been spotted at Niskonlith so they are in our region now.
More information about the red-eared slider turtle and its impact as an invasive is here.
It is important to distinguish this invader from our native turtle, the Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii). If you’ve spotted a turtle that appears painted red to orange on its belly, you’re lucky to be looking at our only native species of freshwater turtle.
If you see one of these species, you can take pictures and report them on the Columbia-Shuswap Invasive Species Society website here. Even though this website features the Columbia-Shuswap region, they want reports of these species from all of BC. They will work with local groups to determine the best strategy for eliminating them.