For 138 turtles, it was a chance to find a new home. For the kids and adults, it was just plain fun.
Northern Red-bellied Cooters took to the water during Monday’s 29th annual turtle release on the shores of Great Quittacas and Pocksha ponds.
Procaccini, 3, of Lakeville, was there with her mother, Sarah Procaccini of Lakeville, and her three siblings — Caleb, 5, Aaron, 1 and 4-month-old Joey.
“When I feeled it, it felt like it was going to bite me,” said Hannah. “He didn’t bite. I put it in the water and he went somewhere over to the beach.”
But the event didn’t attract only kids. Ruth E. Watt, 83, of Middleboro, wasn’t interested in releasing a turtle herself, she just wanted to see was it was all about.
“It was my first time seeing it,” she said. “It was fun.”
Found only in Plymouth County, the Northern Red-bellied Cooters are on the state and federal endangered list. Marion Larson, a biologist with the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said the turtles were collected from their nests last fall and “headstarted” — nurtured over the winter by volunteers across the state.
When raised in warm aquariums over the winter with an unlimited food supply, their growth is accelerated, and larger turtles are not as vulnerable to predators when released.
Lawson said the turtles are marked with a code so biologists can identify them. So far, about 3,000 turtles have been released since the program began in 1980, Lawson said.
For environmentalists, it was a big day in Middleboro. In addition to the turtles, a pair of eaglets were banded on Pocksha Pond. The pair, weighing in at 8 pounds and 7.25 pounds, were banded by Jason Zimmer, south east district manager of the Division of Fisheries and Game.
A climber went up the tree where the eagles were nesting, lowered the eaglets in a basket to be weighed in and banded. So far the nest has been active since 1993, and this year’s young bring the grand total to 29 eaglets that have been born in Lakeville, said Catherine Williams spokesperson for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
During the winter survey, there were about 80 bald eagles counted across the state, Williams said.
Dru Carbone of Middleboro was there to learn how to care for her painted turtle that the cat dragged to her doorstep 15 years ago. She was told that even though her turtle has been in captivity for several years, it can be released in the wild.
“I probably will,” she said, but it will take some time. “It’s my baby.”
Carbone lives close to Pocksha Pond, and said turtles are her passion. “I love turtles, they’re amazing.”