Turtles are prolific throughout South Carolina's wetlands, and several species are well adapted to live in stormwater ponds. In fact, it is almost inevitable that once a pond is dug, that at least a couple of turtles will find it to be a suitable home. For many residents, this is an attractive thought, but others may not be too enthusiastic about having a large number of turtles around the pond.
Do turtles cause problems in stormwater ponds?
Not normally. On rare occasion, a resident may report seeing a turtle bite the foot of a duck, and in large numbers, turtles can cause muddy water conditions as they stir-up bottom sediment. Otherwise, turtles do not pose a significant threat to the management of stormwater ponds.
Do turtles pose a health threat?
Maybe. The most significant problem with large numbers of turtles around stormwater ponds happens when humans handle turtles. Turtles can carry Salmonella, an infectious bacterium, and contact with a turtle can result in Salmonellosis. Salmonella can reside on the surface of a turtle but must be ingested to infect humans. The most common method of transfer occurs with people handle turtles and then eat without washing their hands. It is recommended that residents not handle turtles. If they do, then they should thoroughly wash their hands immediately.
How do we reduce the number of turtles in our pond?
Stop feeding them! Stormwater ponds do not normally have enough food resources to sustain large numbers of turtles. Where they are not being fed, turtles usually number fewer than 5 individuals per acre. Where they are fed, they may number in the dozens per acre. If feeding is stopped, the turtles will disperse to find other food resources and usually do not need to be trapped and relocated. In some circumstances, turtles may need to be trapped and removed. It is recommended that your regional wildlife biologist with the SC Department of Natural Resources and a licensed nuisance wildlife control operator (click her for a list) be consulted before conducting any turtle removal activities.
For information on South Carolina's turtles, check the SC Department of Natural Resources fact sheet on Freshwater Turtles.