Western Pond Turtles in Washington Rebound From Brink of Extinction

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Western Pond Turtles in Washington Rebound From Brink of Extinction

Although the population has reached 1,000, the Western pond turtle remains an endangered species in Washington state.

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The western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata), the only native turtle in the state of Washington that saw its population numbers dwindle to just an estimated 150 turtles in 1991, has made a miraculous comeback in the 26 years since it nearly became extirpated in the state.


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western pond turtle

Shelly Ament, WDFW

An adult Western pond turtle.
 

The turtle experienced declines in their numbers due in part to such factors as habitat loss, the introduction of the non-native American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus), and shell disease which was found in 29-49% of examined turtles during a 2013-2014 study.


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The Woodland Park Zoo and the The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife created a breeding program that has resulted in the release of more than 1,000 turtles over the years into the Puget Sound and Columbia River Gorge regions.

Two of the release sites, Sondino and the Pierce County site each hold about 250 turtles, which is half or more of the state’s total estimated population, according to a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife status update on the turtle.

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Although there has been incredible progress with the Washington population of the western pond turtle, it remains listed as an endangered species in the state.