Massachusetts wildlife officials are launching a three-year project to help conserve wood turtles in eastern Massachusetts.
The turtles were once common in the cool, free-flowing streams of the Merrimack River Valley, but their populations have declined so much that they are now protected under the state's Endangered Species Act.
Populations closest to Boston have experienced some of the biggest declines as residential development has increased.
MassWildlife is teaming with Zoo New England to launch the initiative, which includes searching stream habitats to find wood turtles, tracking movement patterns with radio telemetry, and identifying areas where wood turtles might establish populations in northeastern Massachusetts.
The turtles grow to 6 inches to 8 inches in length and can live more than 70 years, although few survive to maturity, with many struck by cars.