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Endangered pond turtles get head start at Zoo

Tiny two-ounce endangered western pond turtles, some with tiny radio transmitters glued to their shells, will be released into the wild in Pierce and Mason Counties. The 10-month-old turtles were collected from the wild as hatchlings and “head started” at Woodland Park Zoo to improve their chance of survival into adulthood.

Credit: Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo

The reintroduction of the turtles is part of an effort of the Woodland Park Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service save the species from extinction.

Once common from Baja, Calif. to Puget Sound, including the Columbia River Gorge, the western pond turtles were decimated by loss of habitat, disease and predation by non-native species such as non-native bullfrogs.

The turtles will be released Thursday.