WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

July 16, 1997
Contact: Margaret Aincough, WDFW, (360)383-9080

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Endangered turtles to be released in recovery efforts

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 have survived.

"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 coordinating fieldwork.

"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 locations.

Directions to South Puget Sound Wildlife Area

Address:

  • Department of Fish and Wildlife South Puget Sound Wildlife Area 7801 Phillips Road Southwest Tacoma, Washington 98498
Phone:
  • (253) 589-7235
  • (253) 589-7180
From Seattle 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.
From Olympia area:
  • 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.