IMPORTANT MESSAGE - FEBRUARY 19, 2019
Unfortunately it appears that an illness is affecting many common species of freshwater turtles in parts of Texas. The attached images are of the turtles mentioned from Fort Worth and depict some of the readily visible symptoms. should you encounter turtles with conditions similar to those in the attached photos or as described below do not contact or touch the turtles and Contact Texas Parks and Wildlife Herpetologist, Paul Crump email: Paul.Crump@tpwd.texas.gov
We have been dealing with an ongoing turtle mortality event that seems to be growing in scope. In late November one of our biologists received a report of multiple dead and sick turtles at a neighborhood lake in the Ft. Worth area. Samples were submitted to the National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin but the government shutdown delayed results and reports. Samples were also sent to TVMDL. All the turtles have similar necropsy lesions and a viral cause was initially suspected, however that has so far not been proven. The only common thread so far has been a bacteria that is generally not considered pathogenic and may be a secondary issue,though the turtles are terminally septic. Subsequent investigation in the area of the initial event found another lake with sick and dead turtles with the same symptoms. Testing is pending on those. We have now had reports from the Houston and Tyler areas of ponds with sick and dead turtles with the same symptoms. We have been working with NWHC, TVMDL, TPWD Inland Fisheries, local governmental entities plus the diligence of our staff in those areas to find an answer.
What we are seeing are multiple dead turtles around a pond, 10-20, with a like number of turtles that appear sick. They are lethargic and reluctant to move, have swollen eyes or an accumulation of debris in the eyes and appear blind. Some have nasal discharge and some have vesicles or blisters on the skin. It appears most if not all eventually die. The mortalities at the first lake are still occurring.
Iím asking for your help in monitoring ponds or waterways around the state to see if there are similar events taking place. If staff could take notice of unusual numbers of dead or sickly appearing turtles as they are traveling around and notify Paul Crump or me it would be greatly appreciated.
Please share with anyone who could help.
Bob Dittmar, DVM
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department