LDWF release snapping turtles at Boeuf WMA

THE LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT of Wildlife and Fisheries released 14 alligator snapping turtles onto Boeuf Wildlife Management Area in Caldwell Parish June 26. The turtle species have been named Greatest Conservative Need in Louisiana. (Submitted photo)

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is getting a head start on making sure the alligator snapping turtle remains a viable and flourishing species in years to come.

LDWF biologists released 14 alligator snapping turtles, a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Louisiana, onto Boeuf Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Caldwell Parish June 26.

Since 2012, the alligator snapping turtle head-start program has been operated out of the Monroe Fish Hatchery where hundreds of turtles have been reared over the last several years for reintroduction into the wild.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will make a determination in 2020 as to the status of the alligator snapping turtle and if the species should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. In an effort to reduce the need for federal listing, LDWF has begun to address conservation challenges affecting this species.

Commercial harvest of the alligator snapping turtle has been banned since 2004 in Louisiana although recreational take is still allowed. But it appears that the greatest threat to alligator snapping turtle populations is the lack of juvenile recruitment.

“Besides habitat degradation, one of the key issues affecting this species is juvenile recruitment,’’ said Amity Bass, LDWF Biologist Director. “Several years ago, we developed a program whereby we would head-start hatchling turtles by rearing them in captivity until they are large enough to reduce the chances of predation, and survive to maturity. This release is the culmination of the project to help conserve this species and keep it off the federal endangered species list.”

The purpose of this program is to ensure a reliable source of turtles for release to supplement wild populations. Unlike wild hatchling-sized turtles these larger head-started turtles are much less likely to be taken by predators, which should significantly increase survival rates.

As a Species of Greatest Conservation Need, the alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) is listed in the Louisiana State Wildlife Action Plan.

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