UT Turtle Pond is drained, cleaned

6:11 p.m Monday, June 9, 2014 Local

The inhabitants of the University of Texas Turtle Pond will be noticeably absent this week as they are moved to a safe location while their habitat is cleaned.

The largest of the three pools at the Turtle Pond, a popular green space north of the UT Tower, will undergo draining and cleaning this month. Built from 1934-1939, the Turtle Pond has not seen a major cleaning or repair project since 2002. UT biology professor David Hillis and volunteers from the university’s Texas Natural History Collection and College of Natural Sciences helped capture turtles from the pond Monday morning.

Hillis said organic debris and algal blooms accumulate in the pond over time, so it has to be cleaned every decade. Hillis said the turtles have not been harmed in any way. There are several different turtle species living in the pond, including red-eared sliders and Texas river cooters.

“It’s mostly just unsightly,” Hillis said. “It’s just not very attractive and people can’t see the turtles really well.”

The volunteers, some in waders, others in jeans rolled up to their knees, waded through the murky water and captured the turtles. They were then loaded into plastic bins and wade pools to be transported to the Brackenridge Field Lab on Lake Austin Boulevard. Cooper Wyatt, a UT biology junior, said the turtles will be held in several ponds at the field lab where students will observe their activity. They also will select which turtles to return back to the pond, which he says is overcrowded.

There were more than 50 turtles living in the pond, some of them 30 to 40 years old, according to Hillis. Their numbers have increased over the years due to natural reproduction and some being released into the pond by their owners.

Hillis said the turtles will be returned once the pond is drained, cleaned and their habitat is reconstructed, which he is hoping will be complete later this week.