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by Calah Beckwith, Lead Wildlife Keeperphotos by Linda Conrad, Guest Services Manager
Turtles! They’re ancient and fearless and amazingly built. They carry a mighty defense system on their backs; they make precarious journeys through forests and neighborhoods and across roads to mate and lay eggs; and….they have ridiculously adorable and heroic babies.
For these reasons (and many, many others), each May 23, the entire world stops to pay tribute to them on World Turtle Day.So, in honor of World Turtle Day and these special reptiles, VINS had a “return to the wild” party for some of our resident turtles. Each spring, snapping turtles and painted turtles emerge from the Ottauquechee River to dig nests and lay eggs in the meadows and fields at VINS Nature Center.
When the baby turtles make their appearance (primarily fall for snapping turtles; spring for painted turtles), we serve as a shuttle service – transporting dozens of baby turtles down to the Ottauquechee River from their nest sites. Most of these baby turtles must make the long, treacherous journey from nest to water on their own, facing numerous predators and dangers along the way – an amazing feat for a baby the size of a quarter!
A lucky few of the wee turtles will spend the first year or two of their lives as residents of the Nature Center, where they will be nurtured and fed and kept safe. These little turtles live in exhibit aquariums, and they serve as ambassadors for their species by participating in turtle education programs and teaching people of all ages about the fascinating and unique world of turtles.
They don’t live here, forever, though; and today is the day we say goodbye to some of our residents and welcome a new group of youngsters. We returned to the wild two painted turtles who have spent the past two years under the care of the VINS wildlife staff. They are big and strong and ready to thrive in their Ottauquechee River home. We also shuttled three hatchling painted turtles, giving them a leg up on life. What a special day of change, hope, and freedom!
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