Tiny endangered turtles released into Vermont's wild

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Threatened turtles got a head start into Lake Champlain Thursday.

This is the twelfth year the spiny softshell turtles have been overwintered and then released larger and more likely to survive in the wild than they would have if they were hibernating over the winter.

Due to predators hunting them at their nesting sites, these tiny turtles are taken in by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife and ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in the fall, and then released in June.

"This has really grown to where we have 40 to 50 people that come out here, people with kids, families, and so the interest in this has grown-- and that's part of helping out with environmental conservation and species stewardship, that's bringing awareness to people," said Steve Smith, the director of animal care and facilities at ECHO.

The endangered turtle populations have reached numbers above 750, which are scores above their population numbers 12 years ago. However, they are not high enough to end the program.