Spring Cooter Releases-May 29th 2012

It is that time of year again, time to say good bye to the 8 Red Bellied Cooter hatchlings we have been housing at the National Marine Life Center since September. These turtles are part of the Massachusetts Red Bellied Cooter Headstart Program and are raised in captivity for the first year of their life. The program is designed to reduce their risk of predation in the wild.  Red Bellied Cooters are an endangered species and, being the size of a quarter when the first hatch, they are extremely vulnerable during their first year of life. The state distributes the turtles to facilities like NMLC to overwinter from September until the weather warms in May. During this time they stay in warm water and stay awake to eat and grow, rather than entering brumation (like hibernation) as they would in the wild. This allows the turtles to grow 3-4x the size of a wild hatchling in the same amount of time.  Our turtles have all reached the minimum 85mm release size and are ready to be returned to the wild. We are excited to put them back where they belong so they can help restore the wild population!

The hatchling release will be held on Tuesday May 29th from 10am-12pm at the DFW’s Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area, in Hanson, MA. Please  meet at Hawk’s Avenue entrance. We welcome anyone who is interested in this event to join us on this exciting send off. Staff from NMLC will be there with a booth to answer your questions about our facility and the headstart program, and state biologists will be on site to coordinate the release. It is a rare opportunity to see one of our states most endangered turtles.

In addition to the normal release festivities NMLC will stay on site for an private release.  We will be releasing three additional turtles at the same location following the state’s event. Bruce, Pierce & Vesuvius who were also originally part of the Red Bellied Cooter head start program at another facility were turned over to NMLC for rehabilitation and diagnosed with metobolic bone disease last May. They likely did not receive proper care and their dietary needs were not met. Please see our previous posts “New Patients Admitted to the Center – how to care for freshwater turtles” for more about these three turtles. We are happy to say that after spending a year under the care of NMLC staff and volunteers these three turtles are ready to join the other head start turtles. With proper husbandry, calcium treatments, and exposure to necessary UV radiation they have recovered for their ailments.  We are so excited to send these turtles off and would love for you to join us!

For more information on these release events please call the center at 508-743-9888 or email kshaffer@nmlc.org.