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Old 02-24-2019, 04:39 PM   #1
Unhappy Texas turtles are dying and state officials don't know why


Dozens of turtles across Texas have been found dead or dying in the past four months and experts don't know why.
Since Texas Parks and Wildlife staff first noticed the occurrences in November, they've documented about 60 deaths among four different species of freshwater turtles in Fort Worth, Houston and Jasper, department spokeswoman Aubry Buzek said.

The affected turtles have usually been found alone, either near the shore or out of the water, Stephanie Garcia, another department spokesperson, said. Those still alive are lethargic and seem reluctant to move or escape when approached.

Their eyes appear to either be swollen or caked closed with exudate, she said. Testing has shown they are terminally septic, meaning their bodies are fighting severe infections that have spread through the bloodstream.

Investigators have not yet determined a cause and are not certain if the incidents are related, though they noted the tested turtles have shared some commonalities. Among those is a bacteria, which is not generally known to cause disease but which could be a secondary issue, Garcia said. Scientists suspect a possible viral cause, and are working to obtain more information.

Whatever the cause, it does not appear to be affecting all turtles, Buzek said. Even as some turtles at affected waters across the state continue to die, department staff have also found healthy turtles in the same bodies of water. They are optimistic that some of the sickened turtles will recover, Garcia said in an email, but "that is difficult to determine as they are not identified or confined."

The United States Geological Service-National Wildlife Health Center and the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory are working with Texas Parks and Wildlife to determine the primary cause, Buzek said.

In the meantime, the department is encouraging the public to do its part in preventing the potential spread of the disease.

"TPWD recommends thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting equipment and clothing when moving between different water bodies, this can help prevent the spread of diseases, bacteria and other invasive species," a Texas Parks and Wildlife statement said.

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