Declaimer— These are invasive turtles, largely responsible for the decimation of our native Western Pond Turtles (Actinemys marmorata or Emys marmorata). In our neighboring states the native turtle is on the endangered species list, here in California it is a “species of concern”. By harvesting a few non-native turtles we hope to open a slot for native species to more easily find vital resources…especially food. I realize that turtle harvesting may be a sensitive subject for some. If this is the case for you… if the subject will offend you… please skip this article.
While out searching the rivers for striped bass and crayfish the other day with my trusty comrades, we came upon turtle after turtle. Unlike some of the local creeks where restoration efforts have successfully removed invasive Red Eared Slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) to allow for the comeback of our native species, here we found that the native Western Pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata or Emys marmorata) was in the extreme minority.
After a lengthy discussion surrounding the decimation of our native species by invasive animals such as striped bass, bullfrogs, and red eared sliders, we decided to “go hillbilly” for the day and attempt to bring home the bacon…turtle bacon that is!
After deciding that we would be willing to try one or two in a soup or curry we split up and began freediving to the depths of the river bottom. There, in and among the vegetation and silt we managed to sneak up and catch a few sizable turtles. However, little did I know that after I put two in the hatch on my boat, Kirby and Sam did the same! By the time we got back to shore, we did the math and I realized I had six turtles in the hatch!
I am a man who lives by the principle “waste not, want not” and today I got to prove it. The shell and bones of one was donated to an archaeological comparative collection (used in teaching undergraduates how to identify specific animal remains in archeological sites). The other shells were cleaned and processed to be fashioned into lightweight bowls, plates, and traditional armguards for archery.
The meat was saved, slow-cooked, and eventually simmered alongside foraged lambsquarter and morel mushrooms in a Thai red curry.
If I told you that Red Eared Slider meat was no good, I would be a liar. It tasted somewhat like the dark meat on a wild turkey!
I do not know how often I will pursue turtles in the future…but it was a good experience for sure.
Well, I hear Loquats calling me and am dreaming of the fruit salsa they will become.
Keep the old ways alive!