On Thursday the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued executive order #21-19 that states the take or transport of all freshwater softshell turtle species or yellow-bellied sliders is prohibited until the order is repealed.
Turtle Bunyavirus is the virus causing the fatal disease. The temporary order was necessary to help conserve freshwater turtle species that continue to be affected . The virus has been detected throughout the state in the following turtle species: Florida softshell turtles, peninsula cooters, Florida red-bellied cooters, yellow-bellied sliders and red-eared sliders.
We know of least one location on Fort Myers Beach that is selling the yellow-bellied sliders. It’s been an issue the town council has even discussed trying to stop. On Thursday, FWC Public Information Officer Adam Brown told us “All currently permitted activities may continue under the Executive Order. Therefore as long as the permit for this facility is current, the seller may continue this activity and the new prohibition would not apply.
FWC began monitoring TBV in 2018 due to reports of sick and dead freshwater turtles and they’re working with partners to learn more about this virus. The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida is aiding in the continued monitoring of the virus thanks to a grant from its recently redesigned Conserve Wildlife license plate.
FWC is asking the public for help by taking the following actions:
- Report sightings of sick or dead turtles by calling the Turtle Hotline at 352-339-8597 or through the FWC Reporter App. Photos can be uploaded via the App to aid researchers in turtle species id. and condition.
- Do not touch or attempt to move sick turtles.
- To avoid spreading the virus, do not capture and transport freshwater turtles, even those that appear healthy, to release at new locations.
- Do not eat turtles that appear sick or unhealthy.
- All currently permitted activities may continue as outlined in 68A-25.002 F.A.C. and members of the public may continue to bring sick or injured turtles to wildlife rehabilitation facilities for evaluation, treatment and TBV testing. The FWC should be notified before transport by calling or texting the FWC Turtle Hotline at 352-339-8597.