Portland is urging people to leave turtle traps alone at Evergreen Cemetery so wildlife scientists can move hundreds of turtles back to their original habitat in another part of the city.

In a tweet posted Thursday, the city urged visitors to the historic cemetery to not vandalize the traps set by workers, who are in the process of transporting the turtles back to Capisic Pond.

“These were turtles that were moved due to work at Capisic Pond. Now that the work is done and mating season is over, they are ready to go home,” the city tweeted. The city is assuring residents that the traps “are a good thing” and were not intended to hurt the turtles.

City officials said the traps may have been vandalized, presumably because cemetery visitors thought they were harming animals, The Associated Press reported.

A sign has been posted near the ponds that reminds visitors that turtle trapping and relocation are in progress and urges people to not disturb the traps.

Over the next several weeks, Boyle Associates, a wildlife management firm based in Westbrook, will remove about 300 painted turtles and 10 snapping turtles from four cemetery ponds. Each turtle that was moved from Capisic Pond was marked with a notch in its shell.

The turtle population at Capisic Pond had to be relocated last year because the city needed to drain the pond so that the watershed could be dredged.

Chad Flinkstrom, an environmental scientist with Boyle Associates, holds a painted turtle that he pulled from a trap in Portland’s Evergreen Cemetery. Over the next few weeks, about 300 painted turtles and 10 snapping turtles will be plucked from four ponds in the cemetery and returned to their original habitat at Capisic Pond. The turtles were take to the cemetery when Capisic Pond was drained for dredging, removal of invasive plants, and replanting of native vegetation in the spring of 2016. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Capisic Pond once had nearly 8 acres of open water, but the rapid growth of cattails had reduced the open water area to about 2 acres.

The goal of the $2.1 million dredging project was to increase the amount and depth of open water on the pond located between Brighton Avenue and Capisic Street and enhance the pond’s aesthetic appeal and recreational opportunities.

The city hired Sargent Corp. to undertake the Capisic Pond Enhancement Project. Sargent then hired Boyle Associates to develop a wildlife management plan that included the trapping of turtles at Capisic Pond. Turtle trapping at Capisic Pond began May 4, 2016.

The turtles who have been living at Evergreen Cemetery for more than a year have been a popular draw. On the cemetery’s Facebook page, visitors have posted several photos of turtles swimming in ponds.

Established by the city in 1854, Evergreen Cemetery was designed as a rural landscape with winding carriage paths, ponds, footbridges, gardens, a chapel and sculpture. The 239-acre cemetery located off Forest Avenue is the city’s second-largest publicly owned open space. Evergreen features extensive wooded wetlands and several ponds where the turtles have been living since 2016.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]