WATCH: Endangered turtles released from captivity in Lake County

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On World Turtle Day, 88 Blanding's turtles finally went home after months in captivity. (WLS)

On World Turtle Day, 88 Blanding's turtles finally went home after months in captivity.

You could say that's making them smile, because they're known to look like they have a permanent grin on their faces.

Lake County Forest Preserves Wildlife Biologist Gary Glowacki called them "a really cute turtle. They have a bright yellow chin and throat, they're kind of inquisitive, they're curious."
In recent years, Glowacki said, they've also become an endangered species in Illinois because of habitat loss, predation and illegal poaching. But Glowacki's team is working to save the Blanding's turtles.

They "collect eggs from gravid, or pregnant, females in the wild, incubate those eggs in captivity, hatch those turtles, and raise them to a size that they're less vulnerable to predation out in the wild," he explained.

I joined the researchers as they waded through knee-high marshes, releasing the turtles deemed big enough for the wild one by one.

"Shallow, emergent wet lands right here are kind of their nursery," said Glowacki.

As soon as they hit the water, the turtles know to seek cover, blending in with plant life.

While in the field, the team also checks on previously released turtles. Each is marked with multiple notches in their shells that serve an ID tag.

Glowacki and technicians checked two traps with turtles inside.

"This is Small Steve," said Glowacki after a technician looked up the code corresponding to the growing turtle's notches. The immediately knew the mother's name and that Small Steve was born in 2016; this was their "initial capture" of Small Steve.

They drew blood and swabbed the turtle's mouth on-site, happy to see the turtles surviving to grow older. But as they become more mobile, new threats arise.

The Lake County Forest Preserves say the Blanding's turtles are known to venture onto road ways. Glowacki said they may be run over by vehicles or be picked up by someone looking for a pet. He warned that doing so is illegal poaching in Illinois, adding that they are not good house mates.

"They're stinky and messy and they eat a lot," he explained.

The illegal poaching concern is so great I was asked to not report our exact location in northeast Lake County.

"By conserving and protecting Blanding's turtles, we're creating great habitat for all of our wildlife and for people for recreational purposes," Glowacki said.

If you want to help with these efforts, you can join the Adopt-a-Turtle program. You provide financial support for a specific turtle and get updates on that turtle over time-a contribution bound to make the turtles smile.
Related Topics:
pets-animalsturtlesendangered specieslake county illinoisLake County
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