PORTLAND, Ore. — In 1990, only two pond turtle sites were left. The Woodland Park Zoo and the Washington State Fish and Wildlife began a head start program to begin rebuilding the near extinct population. The Oregon Zoo joined repopulation efforts in 1998.
In 2001, there were only 800 Western pond turtles in the state of Washington.
Today, six new populations have been established, two in Puget Sound and four in the Columbia River Gorge. More than 1,800 turtles have been released to these sites and studies estimate that 95% of the turtles survive their first year.
Habitat destruction is a big concern. But non-native animals that have gotten into the region are eating too many baby turtles.
The turtles are carnivores, scavengers and pond cleaners that help balance a pond’s good health.
Oregon Zoo zookeeper Steve Hash shows 3-and 5-month-old turtles that are the future of a native turtle species.