Turtles Returned To Wild

23 western pond turtles reared at the Oregon Zoo conservation lab for nine-months were returned to the wild in the Columbia River Gorge on Thursday.  As part of the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project, conservation scientists “head-start” newly hatched turtles gathered from wild sites, nurturing them at the zoo for up to a year.  In addition to the 20 wild hatchlings brought to the lab last fall, this year’s release includes three turtles that hatched at the zoo.  Keepers prepare the turtles for life outdoors by giving them plenty of time outside to acclimate to changing temperatures.  Once the turtles reach about 50 grams, they’re taken to ponds in the Gorge, where a team of conservationists returns them to their natural habitat and monitors them for safety.  In one study, scientists estimated that 95% of the turtles released back to sites in the Gorge survive annually.  The western pond turtle, once common from Baja California to the Puget Sound, is listed as an endangered species in Washington and a sensitive species in Oregon.  The Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project is a collaborative effort by the Oregon Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bonneville Power Administration, USDA Forest Service, Friends of the Columbia Gorge and other partners.  

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