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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hidden Oaks naturalists release snapping turtle hatchlings

Naturalists from the Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale released a group of snapping turtle hatchlings into Lake Accotink on Friday, Aug. 12. The baby turtles were the first to emerge from a clutch of 35 eggs rescued from a local resident’s flower garden.

The next group of turtles will be released into the lake on Monday at 2:30 p.m.

In early June, Kim Hansen of Fairfax was alarmed to see what looked to her like a gigantic prehistoric creature tearing up her newly planted flower garden. 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 the turtle was named by Hansen, gently laying dozens of small ping-pong ball-like eggs in a freshly dug hole. 
The eggs are starting to hatch.
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 Aug. 1, to the delight visitors and staff, who videotaped the event. The hatchlings couldn’t be released right away; they must be at least a week old.

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