Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

“Timid Turtles of the Rondout Valley” special Zoom presentation tomorrow

How the Wood and Spotted Turtles and other amphibians are threatened in light of a warming climate and how the Hudson Valley may play a critical role in the conservation of these charismatic species in the Northeast. 

Most people do not think of the City of Peekskill as an animal sanctuary. Rather, they think of the population of 26,000, great restaurants, the downtown and the stunning riverfront property. However, in this 4 square mile city there is a plethora of animals seen, like deer and squirrels, and unseen, like spotted salamanders, eastern red newts, gray tree frogs, northern ring snakes, eastern box turtles, wood turtles and spotted turtles. 


Wood Turtles, Spotted Turtles and Eastern Box Turtles have all been spotted in Peekskill in the past and in recent years. Eastern Box Turtles have recently been seen in the Highland Park neighborhood. Box Turtles and Wood Turtles have been seen deep in the woods of Depew Park, Blue Mountain, and occasionally trying to cross the road on Route 202/ Crompond road as they try to cross the street to get back to the woods on the borders of Peekskill/Cortlandt across from the NY Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital. 


Turtles are a big part of our ecosystem in Peekskill yet we rarely think about them. All three of these turtles eat flowers, roots, fungi, berries, snails, slugs, insects, fish, and frogs. Box Turtles are very interesting. Even though they have their house on their back they have a very specific homing instinct. A homing instinct is the box turtles innate ability to navigate to a “home base” despite being in an unfamiliar area, helps this turtle find its way back home. They travel about 55 yards in a day, but they always go back to their home due to that homing instinct.

 Even if humans take the box turtle out of the area and try to relocate the turtle, the homing instinct tries to lead it back home. Unfortunately when the turtles are relocated, the stress of being in unfamiliar territory will cause them to stop eating. Turtles who are unable to find their way home often die of starvation. One study done on Eastern Box Turtles found that only 47% of translocated turtles survived and established a new home range. (1)

Box Turtle

Turtles are becoming threatened in Peekskill, in NY State and in the country as a whole as we continue to build deeper into their territory. Wood Turtles are considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In NYS, Wood Turtles are at risk of being threatened according to the New York Natural Heritage Program. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also states that the Spotted Turtle is threatened by the loss, alteration, and fragmentation of this habitat and a final determination by the government will be coming out this year as to whether it makes the threatened species list on a national level. In NYS, the Spotted turtle is listed as a species of special concern according to the NYS DEC and SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry. A species of special concern means these turtles seem to be slowly disappearing from places where they were once found.  The Eastern Box Turtle, though not on any national lists, is on the New York State-listed species of Special Concern which requires some measure of protection to ensure that the species does not become threatened. 


Tomorrow, January 18, at 6:30 pm there is a special online Zoom presentation entitled, “Timid Turtles of the Rondout Valley”. In this special Zoom presentation, Kiley Briggs, Northeast Turtle Conservation Coordinator for The Orianne Society – Reptile and Amphibian Conservation Organization, will give an overview of the Wood and Spotted Turtles nature as well as threats these turtles and other amphibians face. Participants will also learn how in the face of a warming climate, the Hudson Valley may play a critical role in the conservation of these charismatic species in the Northeast. 


To join the Timid Turtles of the Rondout Valley Zoom meeting, click here or email [email protected].


Third Thursday Series is a program of free online events, organized by members of the Rochester, Marbletown, Rosendale, Gardiner, and Olive Environmental Conservation Commissions (ECC’s). Each month—every third Thursday—the series will present a free online program on an environmental topic of general interest to residents of Ulster and surrounding counties.

Spotted Turtle
Wood Turtle

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About the Contributor
As a Peekskill native, Dave is thrilled to be working with the Peekskill Herald showcasing featured calendar events. A 1999 graduate of PHS, he remembers reading and enjoying the original weekly print edition of the Peekskill Herald every Thursday. He especially liked the political stories, local features and sports coverage when it was written by Peekskill Runner columnist Jack Burns who always managed to weave history into the running times. An avid hiker, he enjoys exploring the local trails as well as the concrete ones in his job as a conductor for Metro North Railroad. He’s a former teacher and co-founder of the Friends of the Peekskill Dog Park, where he frequently can be found with his Koda. He’s happy to be part of the Herald’s growth as the source of local news for Peekskill and looks forward to highlighting a few of many of the events and happenings in Peekskill and the surrounding communities. Reach Dave at [email protected]