The hatchlings were brought to the care center in late February after their nest was accidentally disturbed during restoration work at a natural area in Gresham. They were overwintering in their nest, an interesting stage of Western Painted Turtles’ life cycle. If a female lays eggs in August or September – late in the species’ nesting season – her offspring will hatch in the fall and then hunker down in their nest for the winter, instead of leaving the nest immediately after hatching.
Later this spring, Portland Audubon will work with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine the best time and place to return the hatchlings to the wild. Until then, we’re keeping them warm and feeding them food they would find in nature: pieces of fish, mealworms, and a little bit of plant material. Western Painted Turtles are mostly carnivorous as young, but they will eat more plants as they age.
Oregon is home to two native turtle species, the Western Pond Turtle and Western Painted Turtle. Both are listed as “critical” on the state’s sensitive species list due to threats like habitat loss and predation by invasive species. You can help native turtles in Oregon by reporting your turtle sightings at www.oregonturtles.com and by not releasing pet turtles into the wild.