MARSHALL (AP) – The last of the turtles that were cared for following last summer’s oil spill in southern Michigan have been released into the Kalamazoo River.

Fifteen of the once-oily creatures slid into the water upstream of the spill location near the Marshall Riverwalk on Wednesday. One of them was a large snapping turtle that slowly extended a leg and braced itself as the plastic box it was in began to tilt.

With a final shake, the turtle abandoned the box and swam along the current, its dark shape just visible below the brown surface. The turtle was among 2,400 to be released after they were rescued from the spill area.

This spring alone, about 400 turtles were returned to the river near where they were found, said Jason Manshum, an official with Enbridge Inc., the Canadian pipeline company responsible for the spill.

Enbridge has said at least 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River system near Marshall. The pipeline stretches from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.

Each of the turtles has a microchip installed in it, so it can be identified if it is found again, said Tom Girman, senior environmental project manager for Stantec Consulting, an Enbridge contractor.

With the release of most of its remaining inhabitants, the wildlife center in Marshall, which has been running nonstop since the spill, soon will shut down and set up in a new location, Girman told the Battle Creek Enquirer.

A handful of turtles still will move to the new wildlife center to receive veterinary care, Manshum said.

Enbridge’s primary wildlife clients now are baby turtles that hatched in the wildlife center this spring. As of last week, there were 42 hatchlings, and they should be released in the fall, Manshum said.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


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