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Woodland Park Zoo releases 20 Western Pond Turtles back into the wild

Woodland Park Zoo biologists released 20 Western Pond Turtles back into the wild at a refuge site in Lakewood on Thursday morning.

A pond turtle is prepped for its release back into the wild. Photo by Sarah Lovrien, Woodland Park Zoo.

The turtles were collected from the wild as eggs, hatched and “head started” at Woodland Park Zoo to improve their chance of survival in the wild. Once the turtles reach a suitable size of about 2 ounces – large enough to escape the large mouths of bullfrogs and large-mouth bass – they are returned to their homes and closely monitored by biologists.

The largest of the 10-month-old turtles will be equipped with tiny radio transmitters glued to their shells so biologists can learn more about post-release dispersal, habitat use during active and hibernation periods and, ultimately, their survival rate.

Head starting and releasing the turtles is a part of the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project. The goals of the conservation project are to re-establish self-sustaining populations in Puget Sound and the Columbia Gorge regions and for young turtles from wild nests to survive without head starting in zoos.

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