Who got the most Blanding’s in their traps? Who avoided all the snappers? Who got the most hand-caps? Who got those big bonus points? This week was all about the Bowl… the Blanding’s Bowl that is! The biggest competition in turtle history that lasts one week after the end of nesting season in celebration of all the wild Blanding’s turtles roaming the Lake County Plain of Illinois. The games are both team and individual. Trapper’s Delight was lead by team captain Gary, Las Tortugas was lead by team captain Callie, and here’s how the tournament went…
The Trap Draft (Friday before)
Teams were named and traps were picked. Each player chose eleven traps and 30 cans of sardines. Everyone had to select at each one large trap – these are more prone to those big snappers worth negative points. Those who drew an unluckier number and had to pick their traps towards the end (like Lauren) got stuck with two of the large traps to deal with. One of these traps was deemed a bonus trap which means that whatever is in that trap, positive or negative, is double the points. One of the traps was also allowed a modification of bait of your choice – this is what the weekend time was given for. Some competitors soaked theirs in hot sauce or an awful bacon and water combination; John decided to throw in some old leftover burgers while Lauren decided to try to make one of her large traps something that would attract birds and added berries. The sardines were selected with the traps and came in all varieties – siracha, mustard sauce, soybean oil, water-based, and lightly smoked. The specialty cans were less common so these were somewhat special to get. This was a serious evening as teams planned precisely where they were going to put their traps – team strategy and individual strategy had to be considered.
Trapping ALL the Turtles
143 traps were crammed into the field’s hottest spots by 13 contestants to catch our Blanding’s friends. Everyone had planned out their honey holes and their secret streams, their specialty bait and their strategies. The first day the only turtles we could collect and sample were hand-captures. These points could get you ahead right away off the bat. Team captains decided to award the vets “tech points” – for each hand-captured turtle we worked up we received 10% for our time as we could not be out looking for hand captures ourselves during sampling. We were on separate teams so for the most part worked up our own team’s turtles. Throughout BBIV week we encountered a total of 114 Blanding’s turtles! Out of these we collected samples from 70 of them – many we had collected data on previously this month. This now makes-up approximately ⅓ of our collection. To answer the question you might be asking, yes, we were in lab for many, many hours this week doing hemocytometers, PCV/TP, blood smears, eating fast food and listening to almost every kind of music under the sun.
The scoring system for the week was on the back of our t-shirts so it was easy to remember. In general, more points were given for more rare turtles. New adults were high value as it would be awesome to find a new nesting female in an area that’s been trapped for so long. Also head-starts were higher value to celebrate the success of the head-starting program. Incidental hand captures and trap captures were worth the same amount of points so it was anything goes when it came to finding turtles!
Yolanda: On day one Sam (wildlife biologist tech) claimed that to win BBIV she would capture Yolanda… and she did only 4 hours into the games! Yolanda was a bonus turtle and Sam came across her while looking for spots to place traps. Yolanda and Lucinda were two radio-transmitted turtles who have been “lost” for 2017. At the start of the season these two turtle’s transmitters had appeared to have died and had not been seen or been able to be tracked since the beginning of August 2016. Lucinda had just been found last week in a trap so Yolanda was still worth the bonus. And bonus she was, 70 points worth!
Hypomelanistic turtle: While walking to check traps on Thursday, one of our wildlife techs, Veronica, stumbled upon a hypomelanistic turtle! Hypomelanistic means that the shell and skin of the turtle are missing the dark coloration that they normally have. This condition is rare but does show up and is sometimes seen in a head-started turtle. There was a concern that because of their light coloration, these turtles may be predated upon more with less camouflage, but this guy seemed to be doing just fine so it was great to see him again!
It was a week filled with ups and downs felt by everybody with the top spots changing daily. Some days people would find 3 turtles in a single trap, other days they wouldn’t get a single turtle. You can’t predict anything that will happen during the Blanding’s Bowl except that in the end, there will be a winner. This year it was exciting to have Gary finally win the bowl after competing for 4 years, although in his post-game interview he did say it felt a little lame to have bought the trophy only to award it to himself. We as team vet were very proud of where we placed, right under the two most experienced trappers! So for us, this year’s Blanding’s Bowl was a huge success both in terms of how many samples we got and how we did with the point totals!
1st place: Gary (Trapper’s Delight)
2nd place: Callie (Las Tortugas)
3rd place: Lauren (Trapper’s Delight)
4th place: John (Las Tortugas)
Turtle Shellfies from BBIV week (because they are the best)!