As a summer intern not only is the Cape new to me, but working one on one with turtles is as well. Last week I was able to participate in a red-bellied cooter release where 150 hatchlings, raised through the Head Start program, were released in Burrage Pond in Hanson, MA. When I was told I was allowed to tag along for a release I was expecting to see a few Mass Wildlife biologists and our NMLC team at the release.
However, after negoiating a driveway, that obviously does not want cars on it by the state of the ever increasing pot holes, I was surprised to see over 50 people of all ages and television crews anxiously gathered around carriers filled with cooters waiting for the release. I carried our three hatchlings over to a Mass Wildlife representative and we promptly pit tagged them so we could have a microchip monitoring system in place to account for these little guys.
I’ve never seen 150 turtles be released so fast. All of a sudden carriers were empty and the turtles had made their way out in to the pond. The funny thing that I did not expect was that once the turtles were released many just floated near the top of the water and were looking around for a while. Were they confused about their new surroundings or just taking in the lay of the land? I found this behavior odd but at the same time incredibly interesting. It was as if the turtles were saying goodbye to an old life and welcoming a new one. Now that the hatchlings are on their own here’s hoping they live long cooter lives with many more red-bellied cooters to come!