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Oregon Zoo Give a Head Start to Tiny Turtles

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: October 11, 2021 11:30 pm

Oregon Zoo Western Pond Turtle Headstart

A conservationist holds one of the northwestern pond turtle hatchlings which was moved to Oregon Zoo to be part of the head start program

Photo Credit: Oregon Zoo

Oregon Zoo have welcomed 23 tiny northwestern pond turtles to their conservation labs. Here the hatchlings, the size of a walnut, will be kept safe from predators helping to increase the chance that they survive to adulthood.

"The turtle hatchlings are really tiny, which makes them extremely vulnerable to predators," said Shelly Pettit, who oversees the zoo's Great Northwest area, which includes the pond turtle program. "The biggest threat they face in the wild is bullfrogs, which can eat turtle hatchlings right out of the nest."

American bullfrogs are an invasive species and the largest frog found in North America. They have been implicated in a number of extinctions.

Earlier this week Pettit and colleagues from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife travelled to the Columbia Gorge and collected 23 hatchlings. These will remain at the zoo till next Spring when they are too big for bullfrogs to consume.

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Guests are able to view conservation in action with these turtles being reared in the Nature Exploration Station. They are kept warm year round using heat lamps and given plentiful food to ensure they don't go in to hibernation.

"We keep these little turtles warm, safe and well-fed," Pettit said. "As a result, they grow to about the size of a 3-year-old during the nine months that they stay with us."

Northwestern pond turtles are considered endangered in Washington and a sensitive species in Oregon. Twenty years ago populations in Washington dropped as low as 100. Oregon Zoo have since head started 1,500 turtles.

"We're at a critical point with this species," said Pettit. "We really have to help grow their population numbers if we're going to save them in time."

Oregon Zoo collaborate with Woodland Park Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Forest Service and other partners on this project.

Oregon Zoo are caring for 23 western pond turtles as part of a head start program

Photo Credit: Oregon Zoo

Learn more about Turtles here – Turtle Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Oregon Zoo on their website – Oregon Zoo

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