NAFTRG Begins AST Assessment

by Jordan Gray 

TSA-North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group Begins Alligator Snapping Turtle Population Assessment

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Carl Franklin with two large Alligator Snapping Turtles image courtesy Eric Munscher

When they say ‚ÄúEverything‚Äôs Bigger in Texas‚Äù they aren‚Äôt kidding! With 34 native taxa of turtle and tortoise, Texas has more chelonian diversity than most countries. Of these 34 native taxa, the State Threatened alligator snapping turtle Macrochelys temminckii is arguably the most iconic and enigmatic.

Known to be a tenant of the turbid river drainages of East Texas, this amazing animal has unfortunately seen population declines throughout much of its range due to overharvesting, pollution, habitat degradation and incidental human-induced drownings. With Houston’s human population ranking in as the fourth largest city in the United States, these factors of decline are compounded. Despite the immense population of the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area (GHMA), the alligator snapping turtle is still known to haunt the waters in and around the city’s vast reaches.

With the support of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division, TSA-NAFTRG scientists Eric Munscher, Arron Tuggle, Stephen Ross, Carl Franklin, Michael Farris, John Williams and Jordan Gray kicked off a long-term species assessment and population monitoring this January for these incredible animals in the GHMA. TSA-NAFTRG has since sampled on three occasions, yielding six adult and two juvenile alligator snappers! The group plans to continue sampling sites in the GHMA through 2018 for this species. Once areas of concentration have been discovered, TSA-NAFTRG will perform long-term population monitoring efforts for these micro-populations.