On top of an 18 story dorm on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, three young peregrine chicks are thriving.  That’s considered good news because these falcons are one of 300 animal and plant species on the threatened or endangered list in Massachusetts.

Tom French, Ph.D., of the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, has attached small metallic bands on the birds so they can be tracked and monitored.  “We had no peregrines left in Massachusetts.  Our last chick was born on Monument Mountain in 1955 in the Berkshires.”  

Today, there are about 30 nesting pairs across the state.  When the state’s program to help threatened or endangered species was launched in 1984, restoration of the peregrine falcon was the first project.

Another species that’s enjoying a renaissance is the Northern Red-Bellied Cooter.  To most people, that’s a turtle.

These turtles were on the brink of extinction in Massachusetts. There were only about 300 left before a ‘headstarting’ program was implemented by the state.  This means they are bred in captivity and only released after they are healthy adults.

“We’ve stabilized the population,” said Michael T. Jones, Ph.D., the state’s herpetologist.

Jones added that about 4,000 turtles have been released back into nature under this program.  “We know from recent work that the survivorship is very high.”

But the work doesn’t end after the turtles are released.  Jones comes back with measuring tools and a small scale to check on how well the previously released turtles are doing.  Each turtle has an implanted microchip. “This will allow researchers in the future to confidently say which animal it is, where we saw it during the study.  Those tags are good for decades,” explained Jones.  

There are other success stories across the state.  Bald eagles were gone from the Massachusetts landscape, but with human intervention, there are now approximately 40 nesting pairs.  

The diminutive piping plover is also seeing a resurgence, after beaches with nesting areas were put off limits to people.

Jonathan Regosin, PhD, chief of conservation science for the state, says an environment where animals thrive is a good sign for all living things.  “A lot has been said about how every species has a role in our ecosystem, and its certainly true that when you start to remove a species, or species disappear from the system, these ecosystems, the whole ecosystem can be affected negatively and fall apart.”

When 150 turtles were given a new home at the Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area in Hanson, they were joined by nature lovers of all ages, including a number of school children who have been following the progress of this turtle project.  Regosin added, “Getting an opportunity do something like what we are doing here today is terrific.”

The endangered species program got some unwanted publicity when a plan to release rattlesnakes on an island in the Quabbin Reservoir was met with tidal wave of resistance earlier this spring.  That plan is now being evaluated by state officials and the earliest release would be next year.

State officials say the majority of their funding comes from private grants and donations, like the check off on the Massachusetts state income tax form.