Ciesluk Forest - Threatened Species
Providing habitat for threatened species is just one of the reasons that SVT is working with the Towns of Clinton and Berlin to protect the 55-acre Ciesluk Forest. This forest is home to two species that are considered “threatened” under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Program: Blanding’s turtle and marbled salamander.
The uplands, wetlands, and streams of Ciesluk Forest provide crucial habitat for these two species. In addition, the forest links to an additional 190 acres of conservation land (including Garfield Woods, Forty Caves, Musche Woods, Berlin Conservation Land, and Clinton Conservation Land), creating an extensive wildlife corridor that permits these species to migrate safely during the breeding season.
Blanding’s turtle is an inconspicuous creature, measuring 5 to 10 inches in length with a dark shell and head. Its distinguishing features are its bright yellow chin and some yellow specks that can be found on its domed shell. You are unlikely to ever see a Blanding's turtle: these creatures largely stay out of sight throughout the year, and they hibernate from late October to early spring by becoming submerged in water or wetland mud.
In the spring, the females emerge from their wetland hibernation and migrate to an open, sandy terrain where they nest and lay their eggs. It is during this migration that the Blanding’s turtle faces its number-one threat: automobiles. Because of extensive development that criscrosses our region, Blanding’s turtles are often forced to cross roads to reach their nest. By protecting large tracts of unfragmented land that include water and wetlands as well as dry upland areas, SVT makes it possible for the Blanding’s turtle to thrive and live a normal lifespan—up to 70 years!
Adult marbled salamanders, which also generally remain hidden from view, have distinct white or gray stripes along their heads and backs. These salamanders measure just 3 to 5 inches long and often hide in leaf litter, rodent holes, and other places on the forest floor where they can remain solitary. Marbled salamanders are unusual among salamanders in that they lay their eggs in dry soil depression—dried up pools or stream beds—rather than in water. The mother guards her eggs until the dry depression fills with water and then leaves her larvae to grow.
Development of upland areas, even where the wetlands are left untouched, is the biggest threat to the marbled salamander. Without a 1,000 foot radius of upland forest around their breeding sites, this species is left with only half of the habitat that it needs. The effort to protect Ciesluk Forest and add to the adjacent conservation land will ensure the marbled salamander continues to have room to breed and survive.