Alligator Snapping Turtles

Alligator Snapping Turtles


The alligator snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle species in North America. Kevin Enge and Travis Thomas, biologists with the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute are conducting a study that will determine the turtle’s population status, movements, and home range size in the Suwannee River. A 2-year sonic telemetry study is being funded by the Nongame Wildlife Trust Fund in conjunction with a with a 2-year trapping study funded through the Conserve Wildlife license plate. Information on habitat use, water depth, movements, and home range will be collected, as well as potential impacts of human activities on turtles’ habitat structure. The alligator snapping turtles will be fitted with sonic transmitters and tracked in the Suwannee River using ultrasonic receivers. This study will be the first telemetry study conducted on the alligator snapping turtle in the eastern part of its range, and it will be the first study of its kind in a large, free-flowing river system in the United States. To estimate population size, biologists use a mark-recapture method. Turtles are “marked” by implanting microchip tags in their tails and then released. The proportion of marked turtles later recaptured is used to estimate population size in different sections of the river. Alligator snapping turtles were historically used as food in the South. The peak harvest occurred in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In the 1970’s, the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission began limiting the take of alligator snapping turtles. Today, it is illegal to take, possess, or sell these turtles. It could take decades for the alligator snapping turtle to recover from previous over-harvesting. However, biologists have discovered that many turtles weigh over 100 pounds in the Suwannee River. This suggests that the population in this area was not over-harvested and should continue to thrive.

11 thoughts on “Alligator Snapping Turtles

  1. Kevin Enge: Let me know if you want to work with me on finishing my study I started there in 1990. I'm sure Paul would like to help. I've have 30 nets. If we had the right supply of bait two weeks trapping should wrap up the study, be a nice addition to what you're working on. You'd have data from nearly 20 years of growth and you'd have movement as well. I've got a lot of movement and home range data. One captured 4 years at same stump, one big adult moved 1.5 mi. downstream over night.

  2. how about raising the alligator snappers and speed up the number available?? studies are wonderful, but a hackery would be better! or give private owners or breeders permits to raise them?? there are a lots of ponds around where breeding could be done without anyone even knowing it.
    think about it, and lets have some more tuttles in florida!!

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