Florida wildlife officials on lookout for sick turtles

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) continues to study a fatal virus infecting freshwater turtles statewide known as turtle fraservirus 1 (TFV1).

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking members of the public to report freshwater turtles that appear sick, act strangely or are dead, as wildlife officials study a virus infecting softshells, cooters, sliders and common snapping turtles. 

The disease, turtle fraservirus 1, or TFV1, formerly known as turtle bunyavirus, has been under review by the state since early 2018 and has been detected in Putnam, Lake, Seminole, Orange, Polk, Osceola, Brevard, Indian River and Collier counties. 

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The first snapping turtle with TFV1 was found this year in southern Indian River County. The commission said turtles might be sick if they appear sluggish, unresponsive or reluctant to flee, stay in shallow water for prolonged periods of time, have eyes that appear sunken, swollen, crusty or cloudy, have reddened skin on their heads, necks, limbs or shell bottoms or are irregularly swimming, such as going in circles and being unable to submerge. 

The commission issued an order in August that prohibited people from taking freshwater softshell turtle species or yellow-bellied sliders. While there is no evidence that TFVI can infect humans or other wildlife, the commission advised people not to eat turtles acting strangely or that appear unhealthy.

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