Endangered western pond turtles are released to the wild

The state’s western pond turtle population got a boost August 3 when Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Woodland Park Zoo released more than 90 of the endangered reptiles to protected ponds in Pierce and Mason Counties and the Columbia River Gorge.

The state’s western pond turtle population got a boost August 3 when Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Woodland Park Zoo released more than 90 of the endangered reptiles to protected ponds in Pierce and Mason Counties and the Columbia River Gorge.

The release to the wild is part of a collaborative effort to help restore the endangered population to the state’s living landscapes.

The turtles released on August 3 were collected last fall from the wild as eggs and turned over to the zoo.

“Under our care, they are hatched and given a head start at the zoo to improve their chance of survival in the wild,” explained Dr. Jennifer Pramuk, Woodland Park Zoo’s reptile curator.
The turtles are cared for throughout the winter with a regular diet of fish, worms and other high protein items. “Since they’re raised in warmer temperatures at the zoo, they don’t have to hibernate in the winter.”

In 1990, western pond turtles were barely hanging on to a thread of survival with only 150 remaining in the wild. In 1991, conservationists and biologists from Woodland Park Zoo and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife created the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project, a long-term, collaborative effort among Woodland Park Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The goals of the conservation project are to re-establish self-sustaining populations in Puget Sound and the Columbia River Gorge regions and for young turtles from wild nests to survive without head starting in zoos.

Washington state listed the western pond turtle as an endangered species in 1993.

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