Saturday, October 11, 2008


OK this is going to be a long one, because I have lots of photos, but I didn't want to miss anything, so bear with me.
As you may have read previously on my blog, I am involved in a Blandings Turtle headstarting program. We work in partnership with Du Page County Forest Preserve District. They have a turtle breeding program, they bring us hatchling turtles which we raise for two years before releasing them at appropriate sites. Because of its secure environment a two year old headstarted turtle can be the size and strength of a six year old wild turtle, so the theory is we are giving them a 'headstart' in life, hence the name.
Yesterday was a big day for me as the time had finally come to release the first set of our headstarted turtles. We had several media groups in tow which was an added complication because they all had to sign a disclaimer promising not to reveal the location of the release and they also had to follow us as we waded into a marsh! Needless to say, some were better prepared for this than others! The picture below shows the kind of habitat we were going through.

One of our turtles had been fitted with a radio transmitter so that we can track his future movements and also find out were he chooses to hibernate.

We then set off into the marsh with our turtles to release them in appropriate spots. When a good area is found the co-ordinates are entered into a GPS along with the number of the turtle. (The turtles are given a number when they hatch which identifies their clutch and mother.)

When this number has been entered into the GPS we then black it out to make the turtle less conspicuous after release.

Then the big moment finally arrives and we get to give these little creatures their freedom.

It is a feeling of mixed emotions, having cared for something for a while you do get to learn its character, and believe me, they are all different! So there is a happiness that you are finally in a position to give them their freedom but at the same time there is the slight sadness that knowing a large number of them won't survive, inevitably brings.
Here is Jamie, about to say goodbye to another of the turtles. Check out the beautifully constructed muskrat lodge behind her.

After we had released the headstarted turtles, we also had over seventy, one month old hatchlings to release into the same area.

And these guys really are tiny...........

We followed the same routine with each of them, enter the number and release location into the GPS, black out their number and then release them.

It was a wonderful feeling seeing each turtle swimming free for the first time, many of them popped their heads up to check out their new surroundings before diving down to explore.

What a great day! It is at times like this that I really love my job.

Just for good measure, on the way back to the car we encountered this beautiful little snake. It is a Midland Brown Snake or Dekays Brown Snake Storeria dekayi wrightorum this is a small one but even full size they only reach a length of six or seven inches.

Here is a newspaper article that was done on our days activities - Daily Herald and also a piece on the local TV channel CLTV

Photo Credits - CJT


Rambling Woods said...

Celeste..You blog dropped off my list when I removed one..I am so sorry. Of course I want to follow your blog and especially the turtles. I believe that they have different personalities. I understand how you feel letting them go and knowing that some won't survive. But there is a saying that I learned years ago relating to children with special needs. It's "the dignity of risk". You have to let them go to experience life and assume the risks. I think that goes well with the turtles and children going off to college....

Anonymous said...

Celeste, I love this story. Also, I felt a bit sad.

Lisa MacDonald

Celeste said...

Michelle - I totally agree, with animals too we have to be careful about associating human rationale to them. The ultimate thing for an animal is to live free in its natural environment. The fear of what could happen to them in the future doesn't exist. They will deal with a threat as and when it occurs and they don't waste time wondering about what might happen. There is something to be said for that approach to life!

Lisa - Hi. Thanks for leaving a comment :) It definitely was a bitter sweet time but in my heart I knew it was right when I saw the little guys swimming away, free for the first time in their lives. Glad you are still reading my ramblings :)

Reader Wil said...

Hi Celeste! this is a most interesting post! And you're doing a great job! Thank you for your explanation and information about the research of the development and the living conditions of these turtles.
Thanks for the visit!

Celeste said...

Wil - Thanks for dropping by :) If you are interested in the Blandings, I have done a couple of other postings on them previously. On the left handside of my blog there is a list of 'Labels' just click on Blandings Turtles. Hope you enjoy them.