Western Pond Turtle Diseases Studied

wpt-measured_csilbernagelWhy are western pond turtle populations declining? The focus has been on habitat decline and competition from non-native red-eared sliders. Recently, researchers from University of California at Davis, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and US Fish and Wildlife Service teamed up for the first study of western pond turtle diseases.

They found that both the western pond turtles, and the red-eared sliders carried a virus known to cause respiratory infections, especially in southern California. They also found that the turtles were free of herpesvirus, ranavirus and the bacteria salmonella.

Read more about the study on the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab blog, here. It includes a link to the abstract of the journal article about the study.

Photo: A western pond turtle is being measured as part of a collaborative study to examine their health. (Photo courtesy of C. Silbernagel, UC Davis)

NY Snapping Turtle Law Generates Buzz

Snapping_TurtleAll over the Internet, on Facebook, on blogs, on turtle forums and tortoise forums there are requests for New Yorkers to protest a proposed State Assembly bill that would allow trapping of snapping turtles.

I could not find any information on why these members of the New York State Assembly want to re-introduce the trapping of snapping turtles now. But I did find this informative article in the Baltimore City Paper explaining that trapping snapping turtles was banned in the state in 2009.

Ten years ago I researched an article on the global turtle crisis. Scientists and conservationists said that China’s increasing wealth had just about wiped out wild turtles not only in China, but throughout Southeast Asia. The Chinese were importing turtles from Africa and Australia. At the time scientists feared the crisis would reach the United States.

In the US, the southern states were the first to see turtle exports to China. Is the New York State bill an attempt to cash in on the trade? Current New York State law allows hunters to shoot the turtles with guns or arrow, but not live trap them. The Chinese market demands live turtles.

Snapping turtles are common in New York State and elsewhere. What made the global turtle crisis a crisis, however, is that the that the turtles started out common everywhere, but were quickly wiped out.

Read the Assembly bill here.
Read the Baltimore City Paper article here.

Photo: Snapping turtle by Chelsi Hornbaker, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Turtles, Cougars, and Frogs in the Southwest

The current issue of Southwestern Naturalist has several articles that may be of interest to biologists outside of the region.

Yellow mud turtles decline in the Midwest. The largest populations of yellow mud turtles in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri have experienced severe declines. Withdrawal of water from aquifers is the main cause, but the growth of woody plants also plays a role. Read the article, here. (Requires fee or subscription for full article.)
More info on yellow mud turtles from Texas Parks and Wildlife, here.

Cougar habitat in Texas and northern Mexico. Researchers from Sul Ross State University tested a model of current and potential cougar (Puma concolor) in Texas and northern Mexico and found that it worked. Read the article here. (Same for fees or subscription.)

Fungus strikes desert frogs. Chytrid fungus was found in desert oasis frog populations in Baja California Sur. The oases with higher infection rates also had bullfrogs and non-native crayfish. Read the article here.

Also interesting: Western red bats (Lasiurus blossevillii) and Arizona myotis (Myotis occultus) were found on the lower Arizona River after the area was restored. The Arizona myotis had been extirpated from the area, and the western red bat had not be found there previously. Read the article here.