Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 17, the zoo will be releasing endangered western pond turtles (Clemmys marmorata), some with tiny radio transmitters glued to their shells, into the wild in Pierce County. A portion of the group of 50 turtles will be released in Mason County. 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 in the wild. Invasive bull frogs often eat the young hatchlings, so the headstarting provides a way for the young turtles to grow to a size that is too large for the frogs to consume. The turtles currently weigh about 2 ounces.
Woodland Park Zoo, along with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Zoo have collaborated for more than a decade, raising turtles and letting them loose in protected ponds in Washington. From an all-time low of only around 100 turtles left in the state, this headstarting has swelled their population to more than 1,200!