Headstarting Turtles—Another Perspective


  • Chris Bogard Turtle Hospital of New England/Bonner Turtle Bank




The purpose of this paper is to offer an alternative perspective to a recently published article titled Headstarting Turtles–Is It a Valid Strategy for Wildlife Rehabilitators? (Forrester 2006). The article discredits headstarting past to present, but draws primarily from the historical shortcomings and failures of sea turtle projects. This author would like to clarify that one of the references cited in the previous article, is not opposed to headstarting per se; it is opposed
to its use as the only conservation tool. The article Models to Evaluate Headstarting as a Management Tool for Long–Lived Turtles (Heppell et al 1996) expresses this by stating: “The purpose of our study was to evaluate headstarting as a management tool for threatened turtle populations...We show that management efforts focused exclusively on improving survival in the first year of life are unlikely to be effective for long–lived species such as turtles.” Is there more to the headstarting debate and has the whole story been told? In order to analyze these questions an in–depth look into both the history of sea turtle programs and current research is necessary.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Chris Bogard, Turtle Hospital of New England/Bonner Turtle Bank

Chris Bogard holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and has been published in the World Chelonian Trust, ReMaine Wild, New York State Wildlife Rehabilitation Council newsletters, and online by The Terrapin Institute and Research Consortium. She volunteered and was employed at the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick, Maine working with birds, mammals, and reptiles. She interned under the late Dr. Barbara Bonner at the Turtle Hospital of New England/Bonner Turtle Bank and accepted a position in 2001 as the Senior Treatment Coordinator. She also rehabilitates native turtle species at her home facility in New Hampshire.


Bell, D. L., and J. Parsons. 2002. Cayman Turtle Farm Head–starting Project Yields Tangible Success. Marine Turtle Newsletter. 98:5–6. Available from: <http://www.seaturtle.org/mnt/archives/mtn98/ mtn98p5/shtml>.

Belzer, W. R., S. Seibert, and B. Atkinson. 2002. Putative Chipmunk Predation of Juvenile Eastern Box Turtles. In Turtle and Tortoise Newsletter. 5:8–9. (H. Kalb and A. Salzberg, eds.). Chelonian Research Foundation: Lunenburg, MA.

Blanding’s Turtle Recovery Team. 2003. National Recovery Plan for the Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea Blandingii) Nova Scotia Population. Available from: <http://www.speciesatrisk.ca/blandings/ BlandingsTurtle_Recovery_Plan_Jan2003.pdf >.

Bonner, B. 2003. An Interview with Dr. Barbara Bonner. In HerpDigest, Special Edition (A. Salzberg, ed.). Available from: <http://www.turtleforum.com/forum/upload/lofiversion/index.php?t341.html>.

Brooks, R. 2004. Painted Turtle Research in Algonquin Provincial Park. Available from: <http://www.abaa.ca/projects.asp?cn–316>.

Caillouet, C. W. Jr. 2005. Wild and Head–started Kemp’s Ridley Nesters, Eggs, Hatchlings, Nesting Beaches and Adjoining Nearshore Waters in Texas Should Receive Greater Protection. Marine Turtle Newsletter. 110:1–3. Available from: .

Carroll, D. M. 1996. The Year of the Turtle: A Natural History. Pp. 69–71. St. Martin’s Press: New York, NY.

Carroll, D. M. 2001. Swampwalker’s Journal. Pp. 103– 104. Houghton Mifflin Company: New York, NY.

Cayot, L. J., and G. E. Morillo. 1997. Rearing and repatriation of Galápagos tortoises: Geochelone nigra hoodensis, a Case Study. Pp. 178–183 in Proceedings: Conservation, Restoration, and Management of Tortoises and Turtles–An International Conference (J. Van Abbema, ed.). New York

Turtle and Tortoise Society and the WCS Turtle Recovery Program: State University of New York, Purchase, NY.

Fontaine, C., and D. Shaver. 2005. Head–Starting the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle, Lepidochelys Kempii, at the NMFS Galveston Laboratory, 1978–1992: A Review. In Chelonian Conservation and Biology (A. Rhodin, ed.). Chelonian Research Foundation: Lunenburg, MA. 4(4):843.

Forrester, H. 2006. Headstarting Turtles—Is it a Valid Strategy for Wildlife Rehabilitators? Wildlife Rehabilitation Bulletin. 24(1):20–24.

Heppell, S. S., L. B. Crowder, and D. T. Crouse. 1996. Models to Evaluate Headstarting as a Management Tool for Long–Lived Turtles. Ecological Applications. 6(2):556–565.

Herlands, R., R. Wood, J. Pritchard, H. Clapp, and N. LeFurge. 2004. Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) Head–Starting Project in Southern New Jersey. Available from: <http://www.terrapinconservation.org/herlands_ et_al_2004.pdf>.

Janzen, F. J., J. K. Tucker, and G. L. Paukstis. 2000. Experimental analysis of an early life–history stage: avian predation selects for larger body size of hatchling turtles. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 13:947–954.

Pritchard, P. C. H. 1997. Conservation Strategies–An Overview. Implications for Policy. Pp. 469–470 in Proceedings: Conservation, Restoration and Managment of Tortoises and Turtles–An International Conference (J. Van Abbema, ed.). New York Turtle and Tortoise Society and the WCS Turtle Recovery Program: State University of New York: Purchase, NY.

Spinks, P. Q., G. B. Pauly, J. J. Crayone, and H. B. Shaffer. 2003. Survival of the western pond turtle (Emys marmorata) in an urban California environ- ment. Biological Conservation. 113:257–267.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). 2002. Western Pond Turtle Recovery Plan for 2002. Fish and Wildlife Science. Available from: <http://wdfw.wa.gov/science/articles/ pond_turtle/>.



How to Cite

Bogard, C. (2007). Headstarting Turtles—Another Perspective. Wildlife Rehabilitation Bulletin, 25(2), 12–15. https://doi.org/10.53607/wrb.v25.164



Original Articles