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Trapper to share knowledge about turtles during park program

| Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, 3:39 p.m.
Submitted
Greg Levish, shown holding a turtle along the river shore, will present Turtle Talk Saturday, March 2, 2013, at Environmental Learning Center, Harrison Hills Park, Harrison. Submitted

His Native American name means “Turtles are Coming,” and that will certainly be the case Saturday, when Greg Levish shares his passion and knowledge of the shelled reptiles at the Harrison Hills Environmental Learning Center.

The Sarver man's “Turtle Talk” program at the Harrison park will cover a broad range of information. Donations, which are earmarked for learning-center expenses, will be accepted. Reservations will be taken until Friday.

“There's a lot of interesting facts about turtles that people don't know,” Levish says.

Among them will be information about snapping turtles and other turtles of Pennsylvania, turtle trapping — a regulated and unique sport, and the Native American's relationship with the reptile.

In fact, it was at a presentation on Native American lore at the learning center that Levish approached the park about a program. It seemed like a great fit, according to Mardelle Kopnicky, a volunteer with Friends of Harrison Hills.

“We do try to do a diverse group of programs, and almost every program is done free of charge, like Greg is doing,” she says.

Levish has been trapping turtles, and learning about them, for 28 years.

From his experience in the swamps of northern Pennsylvania to the Lenape Turtle Clan powwows in Saltsburg, he has taken many lessons.

“It's been a very rewarding experience in my life, and I enjoy sharing with people,” he says. “There aren't too many turtle-trapping fools like me.”

Apparently, though, there are plenty who appreciate the turtle. Among them are the Native Americans, who value the turtle for a number of reasons. Levish has worked with local Native Americans to provide turtles, which they use to make objects, from jewelry to bowls to shields.

“Every animal in their culture had a very distinct meaning or use,” he says, “whether for dancing or ceremonial purposes.”

Appropriate for this late-winter season is the turtle's symbolic connection, in Native American belief, to spring.

“When you see a turtle crawling out of the mud, it means spring is here,” Levish says.

“To the Native Americans, it signified new life. It meant in the spring of the year, turtles would crawl out of the mud, out of hibernation, and new life would appear. And it did.”

Another seasonal connection is an edible one, with turtle soup at one time being a Lenten favorite. Samples will be served at the presentation.

“During Lent, the churches always made turtle soup, instead of fish fries,” Kopnicky says. “So it really was a big tradition around here.”

Whatever the takeaway may be for “Turtle Talk” attendees, Levish is glad to be able to share.

“It's just kind of my way of giving back from what I've taken from the wild and to share with people and, hopefully, get others involved,” he says.

Julie Martin is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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