Skip to main content

Cedar Creek Turtle Program: Rehabilitated Endangered Turtles Get Released

August 10, 2022

By Danielle Jimenez

Department of Corrections

(Video Credit: Danielle Jimenez, DOC Communications)

Around a dozen endangered Western Pond Turtles are happy to be back home in the wild after months of care by incarcerated turtle technicians at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC). The Western Pond turtles came into their care after an unknown shell disease was discovered on them, and surgery was necessary to help them recover.

“The shell disease was discovered in the early 2000s and we are still learning a lot about the disease and the treatment, so these turtles are a part of an experimental treatment to help them recover,” said Emily Butler, a wildlife biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “We need to capture them in the Fall and bring them to veterinarians who can do their debridements and do surgery on these turtles. But once they get done, they’re still not ready to be released, so we bring them to Cedar Creek where they can actually have more time to recover.”

Various programs, such as the Turtle Program at CCCC, are run by the Sustainability in Prisons Project as a collaboration between the Department of Corrections and the Evergreen State College.

“We offer science and sustainability, education and connections with nature inside prisons,” said Kelli Bush, co-director of the Sustainability in Prisons Project for the Evergreen State College. “A graduate student from the Evergreen State College has been supporting education and training for the incarcerated people at the prison and they’ve been caring for these turtles for the last few months.”

The newest group of turtles that underwent surgery in 2021, were deemed healthy enough to be released to the Pierce County Release Site by members of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and will continue to be monitored.