BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — If you’ve had your heart set on rescuing some of Truxtun Lake’s struggling turtles – forget it. That opportunity has appeared to have come and gone.
Truxtun Lake – a manmade lake just off the now-dry Kern River riverbed – is basically gone, and outwardly devoid of significant wildlife, a victim of the ongoing California drought.
Just about the only sign of life now at Truxtun Lake is bird tracks in this dried, cracked mud.
Things are better about 5 miles west at the Park at River Walk — if you can call this better. Look how low the water has dropped. Two dozen or more waterfowl but no sign of turtles, although the critters are known to burrow into the moist mud to get out of the sun, out of sight. How much time do they have? Temperatures only continue to rise.
The city of Bakersfield has basically elected to let the Truxtun Lake turtles die, citing a state Department of Fish and Wildlife regulation that says non-native invasive species like these turtles – the Red-Eared Slider, most likely descended from domestic reptiles purchased in stores and then turned loose at the lake – cannot be removed unless the removing party is prepared to keep them in captivity for the remainder of their lifespan.
The city – which apparently doesn’t want to go into the turtle rescue business – also cites a Fish and Wildlife regulation advising people not to relocate these turtles to other natural settings because it’s illegal to place any aquatic plant or animal into state waters. So this is what we’re left with.
It’s all part of the ongoing challenge of providing quality of life amenities like parks and public waterways amid a relentless drought exacerbated by climate change.
But Fran Blinebury of Bakersfield says it’s a matter of setting priorities.
“I walk or run over here every day of the week,” he said, “and I know there’s things beyond our control with the drought and whatnot, but you can go to any local golf course and lose your golf ball in a very deep lake.”
On Wednesday the city announced it was exploring options at both state and federal levels to see what actions can be taken regarding the Red-Eared Slider turtles. On Thursday, spokesman Joe Conroy said the city was still exploring those unspecified options. Meanwhile, the local Petco – a national pet store chain – said it should be restocked with Red-Eared Sliders in about a week. Retail price? About 30 bucks.
Some people might be shocked by the city of Bakersfield’s attitude about saving the turtles out here at dried-up Truxtun Lake, but they say it’s the state Department of Fish and Wildlife that’s really calling the shots.
KGET reached out to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife for comment but as of 5 p.m., we had not heard back.