Worcester State College, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been conducting research on life history parameters of the northern red-bellied cooter turtle in Massachusetts for many years.
A head-start program has been implemented on the refuge and surrounding ponds since 1980 to expand the range of the Northern red-bellied cooter turtle into several additional ponds, and significantly increase the number of turtles in ponds with existing populations. The head-start program consists of collecting hatchlings as they emerge in the wild and raising them in captivity during the first 9 months. Turtles are kept in a warm environment and fed a constant diet of lettuce. When they are released back into the wild the following spring, the captive raised turtles are the size of an average 3-5 year old wild turtle, which increases their chances of surviving the realm of predators that prey on young, small turtles. Between 1980 and 2002 over 2,000 head-started turtles have been released in twenty-two sites.
Refuge staff are working to enhance habitat around Crooked Pond for nesting and basking turtles. Because northern red-bellied cooter turtles require open, sandy soils to nest, hand and mechanized tools are used to remove encroaching vegetation and turn the soil on an annual basis. Trees removed to expose nesting beaches to sunlight are limbed and anchored in the shallow waters of the pond to provide additional basking sites.
Refuge staff use prescribed fire as a management tool to improve wildlife habitat and, at Massasoit National Wildlife Refuge, to reduce wildland fire risk to adjacent lands. To learn more, check out our Massasoit fact sheet (pdf - 385kb).
Burn Summary May 13 - (12 KB)
Massasoit Prescribed Fire Plan- (pdf - 1.38MB)
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Because the refuge provides critical habitat to the northern red-bellied cooter, it is closed to all public uses. Learn more about the red-bellied cooter on our Wildlife & Habitat page.