Endangered turtles released in Lee Co.

 Source: The Nature Conservancy
Source: The Nature Conservancy (WIFR)
Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 1:16 PM CDT
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More than 70 threatened Blanding’s turtles were released in two prairie preserves in Lee County on Thursday.

The year-old Blanding's turtles known for their apparent permanent “smile,” were released at Nachusa Grasslands and the Richardson Wildlife Foundation, which together encompass nearly 6,000-acres of restored prairie, woodlands and wetlands across the county, according to the Nature Conservancy.

The species is one of seven endangered turtles species from Illinois. Scientists collected the eggs a year ago, raising the baby turtles from hatchlings ever since, a process called "headstarting."

Experts then released the turtles back to the wild after a year when they have grown large enough to better protect themselves from predators. Custom-built transmitters were placed on the Blanding’s turtles ahead of the release at each site to track wellbeing and survival rates, according to the Nature Conservancy.

“We are invested in protecting and expanding populations of the few turtles that remain, Elizabeth Bach, Ecosystem Restoration Scientist for The Nature Conservancy at Nachusa Grasslands said. “It’s truly an extraordinary wildlife effort involving the collaboration of scientists from across the state. We’re excited to be part of this species’ critical and rewarding conservation journey.”

A team from the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Illinois University placed custom-built transmitters on a portion of the Blanding’s turtles ahead of the release at each site to track survival rates.