Virus killing Florida freshwater turtles

A softshell turtle at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park in Florida. Softshell turtles are among the turtles affected by a fatal virus. Credit: Tim Donovan/FWC

A fatal virus is killing freshwater turtles in Florida. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists say they have been studying the turtle fraservirus 1 (TFV1), formerly known as turtle bunyavirus, since early 2018. Since then, it has been detected in Putnam, Lake, Seminole, Orange, Polk, Osceola, Brevard, Indian River and Collier counties.

TFV1 has been detected in softshells, cooters and sliders. The first TFV1 positive common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) was discovered earlier this year in southern Indian River County. Affected turtles may appear sluggish or unresponsive; linger in shallow water or banks; stretch their heads and necks flat along the ground; display reddened skin on the head, neck, limbs or shell bottom; and swim irregularly.

The FWC is asking the public to take photos of the turtles and report sightings of turtles that appear sick, dead or are acting unusual to its turtle hotline, 352-339-8597, or through the FWC Reporter App. To avoid spreading the virus, the public is asked to avoid capturing, transporting or releasing turtles in new locations, even if they appear healthy. There is no current evidence to suggest that humans or wildlife other than turtles can be infected with the virus.

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