Shell Shocked

Alison, our ever faithful Herring Warden continues battling the elements, and it turns out also reptilian life, as we find out in her latest report from the field…

Hello from the Herring Warden! If there is any confusion as to what that entails, click here to read more about it. Basically, I make sure the fishways are in good shape and I count a lot of herring. At Plymouth’s Town Brook, we are now at a minimum count of 45,000 fish! I feel very lucky since other runs aren’t doing nearly so well. We are getting a lot of data at Town Brook so that in a few years, after two more dams are removed, we can see the impact of the dam removals on the herring run.

The most dramatic event of my job as a herring warden came only yesterday. I was checking the second fish ladder at Newfield Street, which is quite often blocked by logs, sticks, and other debris. When I looked down into the ladder I saw not a log, but I giant 35 pound snapping turtle. I immediately assumed he was dead because he was being pushed against the grate by the water flow and I wasn’t sure how long he had been there. When I tried to move him I found out that he was not dead. I went to my car, got my waders, and climbed into the fish ladder. By this time I had an audience. I can’t deny that I was scared. The turtle’s head was bigger than my hand. One snap could have cost me a few fingers. In order to avoid losing any limbs, and for good grip since the turtle’s shell was slippery, I got behind the turtle and covered him with my jacket. Somehow I managed to lift the massive reptile against the water flow . One of the on-lookers helped me carry him out of the fish ladder and down to the pond. He was moving around a little but I’m not sure if he’ll recover.

The experience highlighed another bright side to dam removals: giant turtles will not get stuck in fish ladders and frightened young women (who are probably younger than said giant turtles) will not have to ruin perfectly good jackets to pick them up and carry them to safety.

Keep your eyes peeled here for more reports from Alison and her monitoring work.