US Army Corps of Engineers
Albuquerque District

Staff Conducts ‘Operation Turtle Eviction’ at Conchas Dam

Public Affairs
Published Nov. 1, 2012
CONCHAS DAM, N.M., -- Albuquerque District Ranger Michael Vollmer and Maintenance Worker Carl Latham endured mosquitoes and leeches while setting the turtle traps.

CONCHAS DAM, N.M., -- Albuquerque District Ranger Michael Vollmer and Maintenance Worker Carl Latham endured mosquitoes and leeches while setting the turtle traps.

CONCHAS DAM, N.M., -- This snapping turtle was caught on the first day that staff at Conchas Dam tried to trap and relocate turtles for upcoming maintenance work on the stilling basin.

CONCHAS DAM, N.M., -- This snapping turtle was caught on the first day that staff at Conchas Dam tried to trap and relocate turtles for upcoming maintenance work on the stilling basin.

The Corps’ Conchas project will be busy with activity during the next few months, as maintenance work is performed on the stilling basin. It has been 40 years since the basin has been cleaned and inspected.

In preparation for the work, the Corps awarded a contract to empty the stilling basin pool and remove the silt at the base of the dam. Once that is complete, Corps personnel will inspect the concrete surfaces, seals, conduit and gate to make any needed repairs. However, before the de-watering takes place, rangers and maintenance personnel wanted to make a concerted effort to trap and relocate any amphibious residents living in the basin.

Since Oct. 1, Natural Resource Specialist Ranger Michael Vollmer and Maintenance Worker Jason Latham have set traps to humanely capture turtles with the intent of releasing them away from the construction site.

Armed with five N.M. Game and Fish traps, which they strategically placed in shallow water adjacent to the shoreline, the rangers began ‘Operation Turtle Eviction.’

“Each of the traps are baited with a can of sardines; however, no preference for flavor has been noticed,” Vollmer said. “The most common species we’ve caught is the Red-Eared Slider, a non-native species, and they have ranged in size from a couple of inches to a foot, or more, in diameter.”

Vollmer said they have been surprised by the size and species of some of the other turtles, such as a snapping turtle, another non-native species, trapped the first day.

“The first snapping turtle measured 12 inches across and 24 inches long with an approximate weight of 15 lbs.,” he said.

Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15, the duo felt satisfaction in catching and releasing 10 turtles.