Despite the chilly temperature and overcast sky, dozens of Vermonters spent Saturday on a North Hero beach. They hope doing so will ensure another generation for a threatened species: the spiny soft-shell turtle.
"During the summer and into the fall vegetation overgrows the beaches and eventually will become impenetrable for the turtles to dig their nest," said Vermont Fish and Wildlife Biologist Steve Parren, "(Saturday) we're cleaning up the beaches and preparing them for turtle nesting season."
Parren says turtles have less and less suitable nesting area every year as people occupy more and more of the lakeshore.
He and a crew of volunteers cleaned up a patch -- one of only two left in the state -- at the Northern tip of North Hero State Park to make conditions perfect. About 100 mother turtles from four different species - including the spiny soft-shell - will lay their eggs there.
Brenda Tigag and her family came all the way from Concord, Vt. in the Northeast corner of the state. Her daughter Rosalyn called the turtles cute.
Brenda says the experience is an enjoyable learning opportunity for her daughter. "She really likes science and learning things about nature so this is a good adventure for her," she said.
Parren concedes the turtles are cute but says their real importance lies in their place in the food chain. Eggs provide food for fish and birds while mature turtles are a key predator in the ecosystem. "They're just part of the fabric and you know don't want to have too many tears in the fabric because the whole thing can start coming apart," said Parren.
Mothers already laid eggs this year; Saturday's prep is for next year's batch. The next generation of turtles will hatch in the spring but for many on the beach a new understanding already has.