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Boston — As part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s efforts to restore endangered species in Massachusetts, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) officials, cooperating partners and members of the public today participated in the release of 55 Northern Red-bellied Cooters, a turtle listed on both federal and state endangered species lists, at the Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area in Hanson.
Last fall, the cooter hatchlings were removed from the wild and paired with partnering educational and scientific facilities from across the state as part of MassWildlife’s “headstarting” program. Raising the turtles in captivity for several months greatly accelerates growth and reduces the likelihood of death from predators during a turtle’s first year of life.
“Headstarting Northern Red-bellied Cooters has been a critical tool in protecting this highly endangered species, and we truly appreciate the support of the volunteers and organizations that assist us with this program,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “This headstart program is just one of many long-term conservation efforts by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife using sound science to protect, maintain or restore both common and endangered species in Massachusetts.”
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Representatives from the following organizations, schools and colleges partnered with MassWildlife on this project: Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield; Bristol County Agricultural High School, Dighton; Clinton High School; Dighton Regional High and Middle Schools; Eagle Hill School, Hardwick; Essex Technical High School, Danvers; Gibbons Middle School, Westborough; Greenfield High School, Holbrook High School; MassAudubon, Long Pasture, Barnstable; Minuteman Regional High School, Lexington; Museum of Science, Boston; National Marine Life Center, Bourne; New England Aquarium, Boston; Narragansett Regional High School, Templeton; Norwood High School; Qualters Middle School, Mansfield; Quincy High School; South Shore Science Center, Norwell; Southeastern MA Pine Barrens, Plymouth; Southeastern Regional High School, Easton; Upper Cape Technical High School, Bourne; Watertown High School, Weymouth School, and Worcester State University.
As part of an overall turtle conservation effort, 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’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program is responsible for the conservation and protection of the hundreds of species that are not hunted, fished, trapped, or commercially harvested in the state. The Program's highest priority is protecting the vertebrate and invertebrate animals and native plants listed on the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act list. Conservation is achieved through biological field surveys and research, data management, endangered species regulations, habitat management, land protection, and education.