Florida wildlife officials investigate turtle 'die-off'

Putnam County among areas affected by softshell turtle 'die-off'

Courtesy photo from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a “die-off” of freshwater turtles along the St. Johns River watershed.

About 100 dead and dying freshwater turtles have been found, according to FWC officials.

These turtles have been reported on water bodies in Orange, Seminole and Putnam counties, according to the FWC.

Dead turtles were first reported in early 2018 and FWC said it has been monitoring the situation since. The die-off has mostly affected Florida softshell turtles, one of the most common freshwater turtle species in Florida, according to FWC. Some river cooters have also been found dead.

FWC biologists and veterinarians have collected samples for testing. The cause of the die-off is unknown, according to the FWC.

Tissue samples have been submitted to toxicology labs. The tests have all returned negative.

Florida is home to three native softshell species: the Florida softshell, Gulf Coast smooth softshell turtle and Gulf Coast spiny softshell turtle. The Florida softshell turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtles in Florida. They have fleshy shells adapted for swimming, a long neck and an elongated head with a long snorkel-like nose.

The FWC is asking for help from the public. Report any sightings of dead or dying turtles by contacting the FWC’s Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511 or submitting an online report at MyFWC.com/FishKill.