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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Cavanaugh

What's going on with Florida's freshwater turtles?

A healthy Florida red-bellied cooter (Pseudemys nelsoni).

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) is calling for Florida residents to report any sightings of sick freshwater turtles. You can report a sick turtle sighting at (352)-339-8597 or download the FWC Reporter App on your phone. Attaching pictures of sickly turtles is also encouraged. Do not touch or move any turtles found at this time.

Turtle fraservirus1 (TFV1) is a fatal virus in freshwater turtles. There is very little information about the virus at this time. There is no current evidence to suggest humans or other species other than turtles can be infected with TFV1. The virus has been detected in Putnam, Lake, Seminole, Orange, Polk, Osceola, Brevard, Indian River and Collier counties since 2018.

Symptoms or signs of TFV1 may include:

  • Appearing sluggish, unresponsive, or reluctant to flee.

  • Staying in shallow water or beached on banks for prolonged periods of times.

  • Head and neck outstretched flat along ground.

  • Sunken, swollen, crusty and/or cloudy eyes.

  • Reddened skin on head, neck, limbs or bottom of shell.

  • Irregular swimming (sideways, in circles unable to submerge).

On August 26th, 2021, FWC released Executive Order #21-19 which prohibits the take or transport of all Florida softshell turtles (both smooth softshell and spiny softshell) and yellow-bellied sliders. You can read the full order here.

The disease has also been noticed in Florida’s cooter species, eastern snapping turtles and nonnative species such as red-eared sliders. To read more about TFV1, visit, click on “Wildlife,” then “Freshwater Turtles” and “Turtle Fraservirus 1". The link also will provide information on rehabbers, what not to do, and other frequently asked questions.


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