For Immediate Release - May 27, 2011

Wildlife Officials and Volunteers Release Endangered Turtles into Burrage Pond in Hanson

Ongoing state effort to restore endangered Northern Red-bellied Cooter

HANSON - May 27, 2011 - As part of a national conservation and education campaign known as Year of the Turtle, wildlife officials and volunteers today released more than 115 Northern Red-bellied Cooters, a turtle listed on the federal and state endangered species lists, into Burrage Pond in Hanson.

The cooter hatchlings were removed from the wild last fall and paired with partnering schools and scientific facilities from across the state as part of an annual conservation program. As part of the program, cooperating partners raise the turtles in warm aquarium environments with unlimited food, allowing them to grow faster, and making them less vulnerable to predation when they are finally released. Raising the turtles in captivity for several months greatly accelerates growth and increases the likelihood of survival during a turtle's first year of life.

"Raising and releasing the hatchlings is critical to the survival of this endangered species and we couldn't do it without the support of students, teachers and other volunteers who assist us with this program throughout the year," said Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin. "We urge people to learn more about how they can help protect and restore turtles, since 11 of the 15 turtle species native to Massachusetts are listed on the state endangered species list."

As part of the Year of the Turtle campaign organized by Partners in Reptile and Amphibian Conservation (PARC), DFG's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) is working to raise awareness about turtles, explain the threats to native turtle populations, describe turtle conservation projects, and provide information on ways property owners, neighborhood residents, educators, and conservationists can help turtles in their communities.

MassWildlife advises a few basic tips to help turtles, with more detailed information in the web links below.

  • If It's Safe, Help Turtles Cross the Road - Be sure to assist a turtle only when it is safe to stop, pull over to the shoulder (if you are driving), and move the turtle across the road. Always move the turtle in the direction it was headed, even if that direction is away from water.
  • Make Your Property Less Hospitable to Predators - Raccoons, skunks, foxes, and opossums are well-known predators of turtle eggs, turtle hatchlings, and sometimes adult turtles. Refrain from putting out birdseed, pet food, or other foods for wildlife, keep garbage in animal-proof containers, and place trash (in animal proof containers) out the morning of pick-up. Block off spaces under porches, decks, attics, and sheds to prevent these areas from being used as dens for resting and raising young skunks, opossums, and raccoons.
  • Help Locate Popular Turtle Road Crossings - Report turtle (and other wildlife) road mortality through a Google Maps interface.
  • Identify and Report Rare Turtles - If you see a state-listed turtle: take a photo, create a simple map of the location, fill out a Rare Animal Observation form pdf format of NHESP Animal Observation Form
, and send the entire package to MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.
  • Protect Turtle Habitat - If you mow farmland or fields, restrict mowing times to September 15 through May 15. This avoids the peak times turtles are found in the fields. If that's not possible, raise the mower blade to a height of 7 inches.

After releasing the turtles into the pond, MassWildlife biologists, representatives of New England Reptiles and Raptors of Taunton, and the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay showed attendees several live turtles and photographs of turtles native to Massachusetts, demonstrated how turtles are tracked with radio telemetry for research purposes, and explained useful tips on how people can help turtles in their neighborhoods or communities.

For more detailed turtle conservation tips, visit here

The Cooter Headstart Program is one of many turtle conservation efforts being conducted by MassWildlife and other conservation agencies and organizations. For a fact sheet about Northern Red-bellied Cooters, go to pdf format of Northern Red-bellied Cooter
.

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water, and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.