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Turtles Return to East Texas

After being recovered from illegal trafficking, these alligator snapping turtles are home.


Twenty-one adult (and six juvenile) alligator snapping turtles were recently released back into the wild in East Texas after being seized in an illegal wildlife trafficking attempt five years ago.

Large turtles up to 150 pounds were poached in Texas and transported into Louisiana, a federal Lacey Act violation. Alligator snapping turtles are a popular food item with a restricted limit of one per day in Louisiana. This has led to a smaller population of the species in Louisiana, along with poaching in Texas, where harvest is illegal.

“Alligator snapping turtles have been protected in Texas since the 1970s,” says Meredith Longoria, deputy director of the TPWD Wildlife Division. “We have a unique opportunity to not only return these turtles to their range in Texas from which they were taken, but also to learn more about their habits and their biology so that we can more effectively conserve Texas populations to ensure their viability for generations to come.”

The turtles were transported from the Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery in Louisiana as part of a coordinated effort with TPWD, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Stephen F. Austin State University, Sabine River Authority, Northeast Texas Municipal Water District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Houston Zoo and the Turtle Survival Alliance, among others.

“The success of this project demonstrates our shared commitment to protecting and conserving wildlife in Texas,” says Amy Lueders of the USFWS.

TPWD staff worked with turtle researchers across Texas and the Turtle Survival Alliance to support the development of a genetic analysis on all the turtles that were released in order to determine the river basin of origin. Veterinarians evaluated each turtle to ensure the health of the species and fitted each with radio telemetry tags to allow researchers to monitor the turtle’s survival, habitat use and movement throughout their lives.

More information about nongame and rare species in Texas, including species listed as threatened or endangered, can be found on the Wildlife Diversity page of the TPWD website.

 TPWD Staff   Courtesy Dr Chris Schalk and Robert Allen / SFAU

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