These wood turtle hatchlings are being raised at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. They will be released into western Maryland forests next year to help repopulate the turtle population. Photo courtesy of Maryland Zoo.

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is raising a new generation of wood turtles that will soon be released into western Maryland forests to repopulate the wildlife population.

Using a parent community of five wood turtles that were rescued, the Maryland Zoo is taking care of six hatchlings in a biosecure area until they are strong enough to be set free into their own habitat next year. 

“Here at the Zoo, we’re helping the hatchlings learn how to do wild turtle things by providing a naturalistic environment and rugged, variable terrain to master, while minimizing human contact,” said Kevin Barrett, the Maryland Zoo’s curator of reptiles and amphibians, in a statement. “This is critical to their viability once they’re released.”

The breeding of adult wood turtles is especially significant because this species typically reproduces slowly and has a higher hatchling death rate. But the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Susquehannock Wildlife Society plan to increase the population of the native wood turtle species, which has declined over the years due to destruction of their habitat. 

“Wood turtles are a species on the edge and we are taking conservation actions that aim to prevent its becoming endangered,” Maryland DNR Regional Biologist Scott Smith said in a statement. “In this case, we cannot safely release the illegally caught turtles back into the wild because of disease risk. By breeding them and releasing their ‘head start’ offspring, we can bolster their population, in a less risky manner, and not lose those genetic lineages.”

When the reptiles are released, the zoo and DNR will track them with a tiny radio transmitter. The device will be used to regularly check on them and ensure they are prospering in their habitat, just as other wood turtles who were actually hatched in the wild.

Avatar photo

Latrice Hill

Latrice Hill is a Baltimore native and Morgan State University graduate who loves all the great things this city has to offer. She worked with WMAR 2-News as an Assignment Desk Editor before she joined...

One reply on “Maryland Zoo plans to repopulate the wild by raising new generation of wood turtles to be released next year”

Comments are closed.