Published on June 16, 2022

Oak Knoll’s Blanding's Turtle Head Start Program

Turtle in the grass at Oak Knoll

Mass Audubon’s Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary annually partners with U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s Blanding’s Turtle Rearing program. This program is a head start program to give hatchlings, of this endangered species, a better chance of surviving their first winter. Federal scientists collect hatchling turtles in September and drop them off at designated centers and schools that are trained and prepared to house, feed, care for, and collect data for a period of 9 months. Students are responsible weekly to measure growth and weight, cleaning tanks, doing medical checks, and feeding. Once the hatchlings grow significantly through the winter, scientists will collect the turtles in June for release into the wild. Students are invited to the secret release locations for the release.

Oak Knoll has worked on this project since 2013 raising and releasing a small handful of turtles each year.  We would like this program to become more ingrained in our portfolio of project based, hands on, STEM style learning opportunities.  To do this we need the infrastructure to ensure we care for turtles safely and efficiently and so the students who participate can use some of the most current systems and equipment for rearing endangered turtle species.  

2021-2022 Blanding's Turtle Program has officially come to a close.

Weighing turtles at Oak Knoll

This year we had 4 Blanding's turtles for just about 9 months!  Our high school age homeschool students worked through the school year season to feed, clean, weigh, measure shell length, and perform health checks on each turtle.  In October 2021 our friends at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex collected hatchling Blanding's turtles, so they could be "head started" or raised safely in captivity for their first winter.  Due to the impacts of habitat loss, an increase of roadways near their existing habitat, climate change, and pollution this species of turtle is listed as threatened on the state Endangered Species list.  Our Homeschool students at Oak Knoll are part of a larger network of schools and educational facilities that work in partnership with U.S. Fish & Wildlife to ensure this species has a chance to bounce back in our communities.  This year we successfully raised 4 turtles for release!