Here's how you can help Florida wildlife officials investigate turtle die-off

300 sick, dead turtles reported since March 2018

Softshell turtle. Image courtesy of FWC. (FWC)

Florida wildlife officials are asking for the public's help in reporting sick or dead freshwater turtles as part of an investigation into a die-off that began a year ago.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began receiving reports in March 2018 about Florida softshell and cooter turtles either dead or injured in the St. Johns River. Since then, approximately 300 turtle illness or deaths have been connected to the ongoing mortality event.

The sick and dead turtles have been found along the St. Johns watershed from near Palm Bay to Crescent Lake and Apopk as well as in Lake Apopka, Eustis, Windermere and Cocoa Beach.

The FWC has joined with the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine Wildlife Aquatic Veterinary Disease Laboratory, UF-CVM Aquatic Amphibian and Reptile Pathology Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory to investigate the deaths and illnesses.

So far, 18 turtles have been examined by researchers with the FWC and UF and the findings suggest that  a viral infection could be to blame. Toxins such as the ones produced by harmful algal blooms were not detected in any of the tested turtles.

No other wildlife, including fish, have been affected.

As part of the ongoing effort to stop the die-off, the FWC is asking the public to take the following actions:

  • Report sightings of sick or dead turtles to the FWC by calling: 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. 
  • Do not touch or attempt to move sick turtles. 
  • To avoid spreading the virus, do not capture, transport or release freshwater turtles, even those that appear healthy, to new locations. 
  • Do not eat turtles that appear sick or unhealthy. 
  • For more information on reporting sick or injured wildlife in Central Florida, click here.