The Western Pond Turtle was once the only species of turtle found in the Puget Sound lowlands, but there’s a good chance that you’ve never seen one. Once common throughout the region, by the early 1990’s there were only about 150 Western Pond Turtles left in Washington State. Their decline was fueled by habitat degradation and loss, as well as predation by introduced Bullfrogs and other species. In 1993 they were listed as a State Endangered Species. When the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) contacted PAWS to see if we could provide care to a sick Western Pond Turtle, we were happy to lend a hand.
Since 1991, the Woodland Park Zoo and the WDFW have been collaborating on a joint project called the Western Pond Turtle Recovery Project. Hatchling turtles are collected from the wild in the fall and taken to the zoo where they are fed and kept warm through the winter. When they are large enough that they will not fall prey to birds or bullfrogs, they are released back to the wild. In addition, turtles at the release sites are closely monitored to ensure they are doing well. The female turtle that was brought to us for care had developed a condition known as “shell rot”, in which the tissues of the shell are infected with bacteria, fungus or another agent. The infection breaks down the shell causing soft spots and visible pitting.