With help from us, these neighbours are re-building their community.
Hotel Lake is home to a unique Pacific Coast subspecies of the Western Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii). These turtles can live to well over 30 years — if they can get through their infancy that is. Hatchlings are left completely on their own to survive the journey from nest to lake, avoiding hungry predators and dealing with the results of human activities which include water pollution and the infilling and erosion of fragile riparian zones.
This subspecies of turtle reproduces less often than painted turtles in other regions - although they lay plenty of eggs when they do. The eggs hatch in the fall and the hatchlings usually spend the winter hibernating in their nest chamber and emerge the following spring. During that time the eggs are vulnerable to raccoons, skunks, coyotes, otters, mink, squirrels, various bird species and domestic cats and dogs. The predation rate can be as high as 90%. Young western painted turtles feed mainly on tadpoles, insects, crayfish and snails, graduating to bigger prey like fish and frogs as they get older. To give them the energy they need for foraging and mating, these turtles will bask in the sun several times a day to raise their temperature. Adult turtles overwinter within the soft, muddy bottoms of lakes and wetlands and emerge when the water temperature reaches 6 degrees Celsius.
This species and its regional population are listed under the Federal Species At Risk Act (SARA) and may be subject to protections under the BC Wildlife Act. Habitat for this species may also be governed under provincial and federal regulations including the Fish Protection Act and Federal Fisheries Act as well as Regional and local municipal bylaws.
Hotel Lake currently has one manufactured nesting beach on private property built and monitored by the Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project. This beach has seen significant turtle nesting activity, hatchlings and consistent sightings of multiple turtles basking on nearby logs.
Turtles are an important part of the lakes ecosystem and need our protection. Be aware of your activities in and around the lake. Avoid interacting with turtles especially near their nesting sites, and when they are basking on logs or along the shoreline. Remember, you are visiting their home. Please be respectful.
In August 2021 traps appeared on Hotel Lake. These were well labeled with an explanation that they were for a "turtle population survey". And here is one of the wonderful folks from Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project on the job. With so much care and attention, our population of Painted Turtles will hopefully thrive if we all take time to learn more ourselves.
With all this care and attention we hope that the painted turtle population in Hotel Lake will grow and that the species will thrive. In July of 2022 we were able to record this very short video of an inquisitive western turtle who passed close by so that we could see how they swim; what a wonderful thing to see.