OLYMPIA -- More than 70 endangered western pond turtles will be released
this month from a successful recovery program aimed at rescuing the species from
near-extinction in Washington.
Six juvenile western pond turtles will be released in sites near Tacoma and 67
will be returned to the Columbia Gorge after being reared in a joint program involving
the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo.
The program includes both captive breeding, and "headstarting," in which newly
hatched turtles are gathered from wild sites and nurtured in captivity until the tiny
turtles grow large enough to avoid being eaten by bullfrogs.
Now a state endangered species, the western pond turtle once was common in
southern Puget Sound lowland areas. It has been decimated by habitat loss and the
introduction of predators such as American bullfrogs and largemouth bass. The turtle's
numbers have dwindled to about 200 animals in three locations in the Columbia Gorge,
and they no longer exist in the Puget Sound area.
The breeding program has been active since 1991. The first 14 turtles to have
been conceived, hatched and raised in captivity were released last year. The released
turtles were fitted with radio transmitters to track their movements and it appears most
"We are very excited about the successes we're seeing from this program," said
Harriet Allen, who oversees the Department of Fish and Wildlife's Threatened and
Endangered Species Program. "The head-started and captive-bred turtles are surviving
and that means with adequate habitat, we have the potential to recover western pond
turtles in our state."
The captive breeding program is being carried out at Woodland Park Zoo under
the direction of Frank Slavens, curator of reptiles. Slavens and his wife, Kate, are
"Our goal is to re-establish a self-sustaining population of these turtles in
western Washington where they no longer exist," Slavens said. "We hope the release
of this trial population accomplishes this goal."
Editor's note: Detailed directions to the South Puget Sound release site are
attached. For the protection of the turtles please do not identify the exact release
Directions to South Puget Sound Wildlife Area
- Department of Fish and Wildlife
South Puget Sound Wildlife Area
7801 Phillips Road Southwest
Tacoma, Washington 98498
From Seattle area:
- (253) 589-7235
- (253) 589-7180
From Olympia area:
- Southbound on I-5 past Tacoma Mall. Take Exit 129 (72nd/84th
Streets). Stay in the right-hand lane and go west (right) off I-5 onto 74th Street,
following signs directing to Steilacoom, Pierce College, and Western State Hospital.
Proceed west ~3.5 miles to the stoplight at 88th. Turn right and continue west onto
Steilacoom Boulevard (stoplight at Hoagie's Corner/ 7-11). Turn right at next stoplight
(Chevron station) onto Phillips Road. Continue ~1/2 mile. Hudloff Junior High will be on
left, South Puget Sound Wildlife on right. Headquarters is the blue/grey house on the
right as you enter.
- Northbound on I-5, take Exit 125 (Lakewood/McCord AFB), then
left at light onto Bridgeport Way westbound. Stay on Bridgeport Way ~5 miles, then left
onto Steilacoom Boulevard. After passing stoplight at Hoagie's Corner/7-11, go over
Chambers Creek (Steilacoom Lake outlet) and turn right at next stoplight (Chevron
Station on corner) onto Phillips Road. Continue ~1/2 mile, Hudloff Junior High will be
on the left, South Puget Sound Wildlife Area on right. Headquarters is the blue/grey
house on the right as you enter.