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FWC seeks help monitoring turtle die-offs due to virus

By Staff | Apr 29, 2020

A fatal viral disease continues to impact Florida freshwater turtles, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking the public to assist the ongoing investigation by reporting sick and dead turtles.

Beginning in the St. Johns River watershed region in 2018, virus-associated turtle mortalities have apparently expanded to the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. Researchers continue to receive reports of sick and dead turtles from Brevard County. Additional turtle mortalities have been reported from Orlando, Lakeland and the Lake Wales region. The FWC is collaborating with wildlife rehabilitation centers statewide in the submission of samples from Florida softshell turtles and cooters – Peninsula and Florida red-bellied – for testing.

A turtle may be sick if you observe it at the water’s edge with its neck stretched out on the ground, the turtle is reluctant to move when approached and the turtle’s eyes are swollen or remain closed.

As part of the ongoing research, the FWC is asking the public for help by:

– Reporting sightings of sick or dead turtles to the FWC by calling the Turtle Hotline at 352-339-8597 or through the FWC Reporter App. Photos can be uploaded via the Reporter App and will aid researchers in turtle species identification and condition.

– Not touching or attempting to move sick turtles.

– Not capturing, transporting or releasing freshwater turtles to new locations, even those that appear healthy, to avoid spreading the virus.

– Not eating turtles that appear sick or unhealthy.