ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles Park District’s efforts to help grow the population of an endangered species will be recognized next week in downtown Chicago.
Pam Otto, manager of natural programs and interpretive services, said receiving the Illinois Parks and Recreation Association’s Outstanding Sustainability and Conservation Award underscores the park district’s commitment to nature and natural areas.
“Any time we can help conserve something – a plant or animal or other natural resource – we’re happy to get involved,” she said.
The honor will be awarded Jan. 24 during a luncheon in Chicago.
It recognizes the park district’s participation in the Blandings Turtle Recovery Project, a cooperative partnership with the DuPage County Forest Preserve, Wheaton Park District’s Cosley Zoo, Peggy Notebaert Museum in Chicago and Brookfield Zoo.
The naturalist staff at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, 3795 Campton Hills Road, manage the program for the St. Charles Park District.
Native to Illinois, Blandings turtles can have a shell length of about a foot and look like they are smiling due to an upturn in their beak, Otto said.
Low reproductive rates contribute to their small numbers, she said. While snapping turtles can produce as many as 80 eggs in a season, Otto said, Blandings turtles “are lucky to hit double digits.”
Their survival is further threatened by their mobile nature, Otto said, noting their paths often intersect with roads.
The Hickory Knolls Discovery Center has an indoor Blandings display to help increase awareness of their plight, Otto said, but visitors won’t see many until the seasons change.
“Most of the turtles are being hibernated for the winter,” Otto said.
She explained their bodies need to go through the same sorts of changes they would go through in the wild to remain in breeding condition.
“We will start waking them up in late winter or early spring,” Otto said.