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DATE: July 11, 2005

Turtle's eggs are a sign of health at UM-Dearborn campus garden

DEARBORN---Tomatoes aren't the only things that grow well in the community organic garden on the campus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. A Blanding's Turtle laid more than a dozen eggs in one of the garden's plots early in July.

The Blanding's Turtle eggs being gathered by biologist David Mifsud.

After being found in the garden, the eggs were gathered by David Mifsud, a biologist who has a scientific collector's permit from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to gather animals and their eggs that are threatened by predators or human activities.

In the case of the Blanding's Turtle, their eggs are often destroyed by raccoons and other animals, and adult specimens are sometimes taken from natural settings to be sold for pets. Blanding's Turtles are found throughout the Great Lakes region, are primarily aquatic and their shells can grow to nearly a foot across.

While not endangered, Blanding's Turtles have been identified as a special concern for wildlife biologists because of an apparent decline in their population in recent years.

Biologist David Mifsud examines the area in UM-Dearborn's community organic garden where the Blanding's Turtle eggs were found.

"So that's why we want to take efforts to ensure that they'll be protected," Mifsud said. He will keep the eggs in a safe environment until they hatch, and return them to the natural areas on campus later this year or early next year. Mifsud earned a master's degree in environmental science from UM-Dearborn in 2004, and is employed as a wetland stewardship coordinator with the community group Friends of the Rouge, which has its office on the UM-Dearborn campus.

"The fact that this turtle is thriving here is a good measure of the environment on campus," according to Rick Simek, supervisor in UM-Dearborn's Environmental Interpretive Center. "We have a range of healthy habitats for turtles to grow to maturity and lay their eggs for the next generation."

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