Greetings from Oregon Zoo's Conservation Lab!
This season we had some changes in the Western Pond Turtle Headstart Project. Instead of getting only newly hatched turtles we also took in a group of 9-month old babies. Why? Because this year field biologists allowed many hatchlings to spend the winter as they naturally would - hiding in the mud and dirt in and around the ponds where they were hatched.
When young turtles began to emerge from their hiding places in early May, biologists collected 17 of these small juveniles so that invasive bullfrogs and bass would not eat them. These turtles were then brought to the safety of the Oregon Zoo Conservation Lab to grow up. When they were caught these 17 were still about the same size as they were when they hatched, since they had not been eating during cold winter weather in the Columbia Gorge. If you stop by our Lab (inside our Cascade Stream and Pond exhibit building), you will see that these turtles have grown considerably!
Last month, they were joined by 21 freshly hatched turtles who are quite a bit smaller. This brings our winter count to 38. The size difference between the May and September babies is obvious, as the May babies have had plenty of food available to them all summer here in the lab. However, the two groups are actually a full year apart in age!Because they arrived in May and have not been eating and basking all winter (unlike their zoo-housed counterparts) they were much too small to join the 48 that were released this past summer.. These 48 had been with us since the previous September and were all over 100 grams. By next May we could have more late starters joining us again and all of our present ones should be ready to release by July or August! Thanks to your generous donations through GlobalGiving, we recently did our annual "changing of the bulbs." New light bulbs replaced those from the previous year in all of the turtle tubs. This provides our hatchlings with all the basking oportunities and wide spectrum of light that they need to thrive.
With your help, our turtle project continues to support the recovery of this imperiled species here in the Pacific Northwest and is a great example of how the Oregon Zoo is fulfilling our mission to inspire our community to create a better future for wildlife. If you come by the Lab to visit the turtles, please be sure to introduce yourself as a GlobalGiving fan of turtles!
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Corporate & Foundation Relations Manager