Rescued Snapping Turtle Hatchlings Released into the Wild

Naturalists from Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale, Va., released a group of snapping turtle hatchlings into Lake Accotink on Friday, August 12, 2011. The baby turtles were the first to emerge from a clutch of 35 eggs rescued from a Fairfax resident’s flower garden in early June. The next group of turtles will be released into the lake on Monday, August 15, at 2:30 p.m.

Fairfax resident Kim Hansen was alarmed to see what looked to her like a gigantic prehistoric creature tearing up her newly planted flower garden one morning. After numerous calls to the zoo, animal control, and others, she spoke to Suzanne Holland, assistant manager at Hidden Oaks Nature Center. Holland and Friends of Hidden Oaks Vice President Kevin Holland arrived to find “Mabel,” as she was named by Hansen, gently laying dozens of small ping-pong ball-like eggs in a freshly dug hole.

After her hour-long delivery, the Hollands maneuvered the 12-inch shelled turtle into a metal trash can. Mabel hissed and snapped in her efforts to get back to her natural habitat. Mabel was then moved to Lake Accotink Park to protect her from traffic. The eggs were transported to Hidden Oaks Nature Center for incubation.

Unlike bird eggs, turtle eggs must maintain the same orientation from where they were laid to survive. Holland marked the top of each egg to assure proper placement in a reptile egg incubator. The first hatchlings emerged on August 1, creating excitement at the nature center for both staff and visitors alike. Hatchlings cannot be released until they are a week old.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center is located at 7701 Royce Street in Annandale, Va. Set within 52-acre Annandale Community Park, the center serves as an information source for the public on local flora and fauna. The surrounding woods feature trails for visitors to explore.

A video of the hatchlings is online at the Hidden Oaks web site.

Lake Accotink Park is located at 7500 Accotink Park Road in Springfield, Va.

For more information, call the Public Information Office at 703-324-8662.

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