Saving Endangered Turtles in the Pacific Northwest

by Oregon Zoo Foundation

January 10, 2013

Greetings from Oregon Zoo's warm and bright Conservation Lab!

The group of 9-month old youngsters that WA game biologists delivered to us last spring is really getting big! You might remember that instead of collecting them right after hatching, field biologists allowed these hatchlings to spend their first winter as they naturally would - hiding in the mud and dirt in and around the ponds in the Columbia Gorge where they were hatched. When these young turtles began to emerge from their hiding places in early May, biologists collected them 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. When they were caught these17 little guys were still about the same size as they were when they hatched (~5-10 grams), since they had not been eating during cold winter weather in the Gorge. If you stop by our Conservation Lab (inside our Cascade Stream and Pond exhibit building), you will see that these turtles have grown considerably!  Many already reaching over 100 grams! They will definitely be ready to release this year!

In September of 2012 these 17 were joined by 21 freshly hatched turtles that were quite a bit smaller at 5-10 grams. This brought our winter count to 38. The size difference between some of the May and September babies is obvious, as the May babies had plenty of food available to them all summer here in the lab. However we now have some overlap in size between the two groups.

So we now have 38 hatchlings in our four turtle pools in the Conservation Lab. The ones you see in the upper tubs are the smaller, more recent hatchlings and the ones in the lower tubs are the big guys that were collected last spring.

Who knows? By next May we could have more late starters joining us again and all of our present ones should be ready to release in July or August!

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 Global Giving fan of turtles!

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!

 

Zoo and natural resource agency staff will be releasing 2012's last seven western pond turtles in the Columbia River Gorge on the morning of Wednesday, July 25th. As a generous contributor to the success of this conservation project, you are invited to witness their return to the wild.

The release will be held approximately seventy-five minutes from Portland and will occur rain or shine. If you are interested in attending, please send me an e-mail no later than noon on 7/24 that includes an e-mail address and telephone number where you can be reached and the number of your party. Once I hear from you, I'll respond with additional details and directions to the release site. A limited number of vehicles may be permitted to access the site. 

For those who cannot attend, here' a link to last year's turtle release that includes a video.

See: http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2011/08/slow_and_steady_goes_the_effor.html

Thanks again for your support!

Rick Horton, Oregon Zoo Foundation

rick.horton@oregonzoo.org

503-220-5744

Weight of a western pond turtle hatchling
Weight of a western pond turtle hatchling

Dear Friends,

This year our western pond turtle (WPT) Team has been very busy. Not only with raising turtles for release, but also
attending informational meetings and workshops.

As usual, we sent Oregon Zoo representatives to the annual WPT Meeting in Olympia, WA this spring. At this meeting we get updates on all of the populations of WPTs in WA State from the biologists that watch over them. In addition, turtle staff from Seattle's Woodland Park Zoological Gardens (WPZG) and Oregon Zoo gave presentations on our programs.

Earlier this year, we invited the WPT Team from WPZG down to Portland to check out our lab set up and discuss methods of head starting. We spent hours discussing differences in our husbandry practices such as lighting, diets, and temperature gradients. Last month, we ventured up to Seattle (for the first time in our many years on the project) to get a look at their set up. We talked about our written protocols, release parameters and veterinary issues. All in all, both teams really enjoyed sharing ideas and seeing new ways to do similar things.

On May 9th and 14th, field biologists brought us 17 tiny turtles from the Columbia Gorge. These individuals include some of the smallest we have received in years at 3.5 grams (about the combined weight of a penny & paper clip; see attached photo!). After a natural winter hiding in the mud of their ponds, these animals remained almost at their original hatch weights. Unlike their counter parts who spent the winter in the warm, food-filled zoo conservation lab!

In another new development, 2012 has seen a record early release of some of our fastest growing individuals. On June 6th, twenty of our largest hatchlings from September 2011 (some weighing in at 200grams... that's about 80 pennies!) were returned to their original ponds in the Gorge! So our head count in the conservation lab is now 45 hatchlings. More will be released as usual in late July, followed by freshly-hatched little ones coming in to the lab in early September!

Links:

We wanted all of our "friends of turtles" to see a new project video produced by Oregon Zoo photographer Michael Durham and Zoo deputy conservation manager Dr. David Shepherdson.  The video highlights the restoration of western pond turtle populations in the Columbia River Gorge and acknowledges the support of our project partners that include YOU and GlobalGiving.

We hope you enjoy it and will consider renewing your support of this important conservation success story in 2012!

Links:

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Organization Information

Oregon Zoo Foundation

Location: Portland, OR - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.oregonzoo.org/​OZF
Project Leader:
Heidi Wilcox
Corporate & Foundation Relations Manager
Portland, Oregon United States
$23,790 raised of $32,456 goal
 
585 donations
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