Helping tiny turtles get ready for winter - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Helping tiny turtles get ready for winter

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Early Wednesday morning, ECHO Lake Aquarium received a special delivery.

Steve Parren is with Vermont Fish and Wildlife. Every year, he waits for hundreds of spiny softshell turtles to hatch along the shores of Lake Champlain. The ones that don't, he collects and keeps safe until they do.

"I've got probably 25 eggs," Parren said.

And with all those eggs waiting at home, he's dropping off 14 turtles he collected from eight nests to be looked after until they're ready to be released in June.

"They're gonna get fed really well, they're gonna be warm and toasty and cared for," Parren said.

The turtles are kept in a reservoir and monitored to make sure they're adjusting to their new environment.

"This reservoir is maintained at 65 degrees, the heat lamps will gradually warm it up," said Steve Smith, the director of animal care and facilities at ECHO.

Here, they'll be safe from flooding and hungry predators.

"Raccoons, skunk, foxes, birds will take them," Parren said.

Only 2 percent of all spiny softshell turtles that survive reproduce after 12 years of life. Parren hopes to help increase that number to 5 percent.

"They live, potentially, until they're 60," he said. "They grow every year, they get bigger, they can breed and produce every year."

Parren has done everything from building fences to elevating the nesting grounds to protect the eggs. He usually saves 90 turtles every year. Once they hatch, the turtles have a greater chance of survival at ECHO.

"We're going to watch for good energy levels, make sure they're doing well, watch their consumption, make sure they're eating and once we see that, we'll transfer them to this display," Smith said.

So, as baby turtles in the wild hibernate for the winter, these little guys will be eating and growing, giving them an advantage when it comes to surviving on their own.

Once the baby turtles are ready to be put on display, visitors can interact with them through a video camera and temperature sensor.

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