PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Ten more tiny northwestern pond turtle hatchlings have arrived at the Oregon Zoo’s conservation lab.

The zoo says they are caring for the turtles until next spring when they’ll be big enough to make it on their own in the wild. The zoo calls this practice “head-starting.”

“The hatchlings are especially vulnerable at this stage,” Sara Morgan, the senior keeper for the zoo’s Great Northwest area said. “They’re smaller than a walnut — so tiny, a bullfrog can gobble them up right out of the nest.” 

According to the zoo, the northwest pond turtle — also known as the western pond turtle — is listed as a sensitive species in Oregon and an endangered species in Washington. The turtles were on the brink of extinction in Washington about 20 years ago when there were less than 100 left in the state.

Since then, over 1,500 of the reptiles have been “head-started” by zoos and then released into the wild.

“This is a critical time for these turtles,” Morgan said. “We need to get their population numbers up if we’re going to save the species.”