Bay Nature: After Decades Away, Western Pond Turtles Come Home to Mountain Lake

Turtles return to Mountain Lake

By Lauren McNulty

It had been a long time since Mountain Lake was the kind of place where a western pond turtle could live happily.

For decades, the Presidio’s natural freshwater lake suffered environmental insults: runoff from Highway 1, sediment pollution, invasive species, voracious released goldfish. Mountain Lake had been “a cesspool since the ‘70s and ‘80s,” says Jonathan Young, a wildlife ecologist with the Presidio Trust. “It was a soupy, green, algae-scummy sort of lake.”

Not anymore. On Saturday, a few dozen people sat on a grassy slope overlooking the green, reflective surface of the almost completely restored lake, and waited for one of the final pieces: the return of the native turtles. They had to wait, however, for a few extra minutes. Some of the turtles intended for the lake, crammed into travel containers to make their way triumphantly from their previous home at the San Francisco Zoo, were stuck in traffic.

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