PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Zoo has collected 20 baby western pond turtles from sites in the Columbia Gorge and brought them to the zoo's conservation lab.

Hatchling turtles are vulnerable to predators. Bringing them to the lab until they're big enough to go back to the pond gives them a fighting chance, zoo officials said.

"Baby turtles are really small when they hatch, so they’re the perfect size for a lot of animals to eat," said Shelly Pettit, the zoo’s senior keeper for reptiles and amphibians. "And the biggest problem they have right now are the invasive, or introduced, bullfrogs — they prey on turtle hatchlings right out of the nest."

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According to the Oregon Zoo, the American bullfrog has been driving pond turtles and other small water-bound species to the brink of extinction.

The 20 baby turtles, which were collected last week by zoo officials and Washington Fish and Wildlife, will be kept at the zoo's conservation lab until next spring. They'll be big enough (about 50 grams, or a little more than 2 ounces) at that point to avoid the bullfrogs and have a better chance of surviving.

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Visitors to the zoo can see the turtles as they grow inside the zoo's Nature Exploration Station.

"We keep these little turtles warm, safe and well-fed in the lab," Pettit said. "As a result, they grow to about the size of a 3-year-old during the nine months that they stay with us."

According to the Oregon Zoo, the western pond turtle is listed as an endangered species in Washington and a sensitive species in Oregon.

For more information, visit the Oregon Zoo's website.

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