Working with the Forth Rivers Trust most days / weeks throw-up new challenges, last week was no exception. Following reports of terrapin/s being spotted in the river Almond and subsequently an excellent photograph that tied in a location we decided to go on a hunt. Accompanied by a few volunteers from the local angling association we staked out the area of the last known sighting and waited and waited. After a few hours spent staring at all the likely basking points and chatting about the river, treatment plants, invasive plants, shopping trolleys and how the fishing season was going in general we decided to call it a day with no sign of the elusive creature. Two days later, just as we were about to set out on a day’s balsam bashing a message came in from the ranger at Almondell and Calderwood saying that the terrapin had been spotted……… 45 minutes later we were in the country park armed with a huge landing net and large grab bucket. It didn’t take long to spot the beasty sunbathing on a boulder in the middle of the river. Sneaking up on it was not going to be easy from where we stood, we needed to get to the other side. After crossing the river on the small aqueduct bridge that carries the feeder stream for the union canal, we proceeded down the bank to where our target lay. A convenient clump of reeds meant that with a stealthy ninja like move could get you within 15 feet without alarming the creature. Hiding behind the huge net we crept towards the dozing terrapin, at about 6 feet it was obvious by its posture that it had clocked us and was preparing to launch. Its batteries must have been fully charged after sitting on that hot rock in full glare of the sun because with our next step it fired straight into the stream and despite a desperate swipe with the huge net we failed to collect it. Just as we turned to retreat, wondering if we had blown our chances a flash of yellow near the rock caught our attention, the terrapin was making its way back towards the wonderfully heated rock. This was its undoing, a second well aimed swoop with the net secured our prize.
Native to the south-eastern United States Florida – Virginia adult male yellow-bellied sliders typically reach 5–9 inches (13–23 cm) in length where females range from 8–13 inches (20–33 cm).
They feed mainly in the morning and frequently bask on rocks and boulders during the rest of the day. At night, it sleeps on the bottom or on the surface near brush piles.
As a non-native species the terrapin was not removed because of damage that it might do to the river environment but rather as a welfare issue. They are not suited to the Scottish climate as they require water temperatures between 22–27 °C, they also need a basking area that is warm during the day and that will allow the turtle to move around, balance, and dry off completely, typically this area should average 32–35 °C, not your average Scottish summers day. Nicknamed Almond by the office staff the terrapin is now with the SSPCA where it has been given a clean bill of health and is being housed at their special terrapin sanctuary in Aberdeenshire.