Larch’s First Turtle Release: A Technician’s Response

by Sadie Gilliom, SPP Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator, and Mr. Goff, SPP Turtle Technician
Photos by Sadie Gilliom, except where noted

On May 18th, 2016, Larch Corrections Center released its first nine turtles into a pond in Klickitat County. These were state-listed endangered western pond turtles that received care at Larch. The turtles had been removed form the wild by biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife because they were suffering from a shell disease. They received acute treatment by the veterinarian at the Oregon Zoo and then transferred to Larch Corrections Center where two trained technicians cared for the turtles until they were ready to be released back into the wild.

Larch Turtle Ready for Release

A Larch turtle is ready for release.

Release Site

The release site was a lovely pond in Klickitat County.

The team—myself, Larch’s SPP Liaison Mr. Piliponis, Superintendent Oliver-Estes, the two technicians, Sergeant, and Mark Francis—drove 3 hours to a beautiful wetland. It was a sunny day with a clear view of Mt. Hood. We were greeted by WDFW biologist Stefanie Bergh, the founder of the Western Pond Turtle breeding program, Frank Slavins, and Oregon Zoo volunteers and staff. The Oregon Zoo was releasing the turtle hatchlings from their head start program on the same day.

Sgt. Mark Franklin Guarding the Turtles

Sgt. Mark Franklin guards the turtles.

Supt. Oliver-Estes Saying Farewell to a Turtle

Larch Superintendent Oliver-Estes says farewell to a turtle.

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill Learning About Turtle Anatomy

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill examined empty shells to learn more about turtle anatomy.

After meeting everyone, learning about the different tools the biologists use to study the turtles, and the technicians answering lots of questions about the Larch turtles from curious volunteers, we made our way down to the water’s edge. One by one all of the turtles were gently placed near the water. Then they trudged their way into the pond to swim off and join the others. This march to freedom was a moment to remember for all of the many players in the army to save the western pond turtle, but perhaps most memorable for the turtle technicians who are prepping for release themselves.

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill Teaching Zoo Volunteers About Westen Pond Turtles

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill taught young zoo volunteers about western pond turtles.

After the turtle release, Turtle Technician Mr. Joseph Goff shared his response to the experience:

“On Dec 19 2015 I became a caretaker. It was probably the last thing I thought I would be doing in my current situation. Caretaking is a humbling experience. It gives you a perspective on yourself, but also makes you focus on something or someone else. To be one of the reasons that these turtles survive is amazing. Also to see all the other people that have a part as well or are even just interested in knowing what they could do to to help. In so many ways this in something pure. To have so many people come together on one common ground doing what they can to help a turtle that has no means to help himself.

This program has opened my eyes—first to my future. I always have loved anything to do with nature or animals. I want to go back to school for it now. I want to volunteer and do it for a living. This program has also changed my perspective on people. Outside of family I guess I’ve lost my ability to put trust in or listen to others. Surrounding myself with people who always had ulterior motives or just take and pretend to care. It made me close-minded and hardened. In fact, a lot of people probably might have said I was one of those people that had ulterior motives that pretended to care.

Now I’m caring for these turtles who ironically are sick just like I was. They are enclosed and cared for. When their time is up and they are well they get to leave; if they get sick again they come back. I’m also involved with other caregivers that have helped me find a part of myself I had lost along the way. I believe this program has greatly changed my current life and if I continue with this same line of work or similar, I will be forever changed.”

Turtle Technician Mr. Goff Releasing a Turtle

Turtle Technician Mr. Goff Releasing a Turtle.

Watching the Turtles Swim Away

The technicians watched the turtles swim away.

All the Collaborators for the Turtle Program

Here is the Larch’s Turtle Program team. Photo by Zoo Volunteer.

1 Comment:

  1. Beatrice

    They are different places about 10 miles apartFlorida Mall is more compact but still very large but you can get from store/outlets to others without going ouldsie.Miltenium is more upmarket more spread out very wow factor

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