DISTRIBUTION AND STATUS OF THE SUWANNEE COOTER, PSEUDEMYS CONCINNA SUWANNIENSIS, IN THE ALAFIA RIVER (HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FLORIDA, USA)

Authors

  • George L. Heinrich Heinrich Ecological Services, Florida Turtle Conservation Trust
  • Timothy J. Walsh Bruce Museum, Florida Turtle Conservation Trust
  • Dale R. Jackson Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Florida State University
  • J. Sean Doody University of South Florida, Department of Integrated Biology

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.17161/jnah.vi.15249

Keywords:

Alafia River, anthropogenic threats, Pseudemys concinna, Suwannee Cooter, turtle conservation

Abstract

The Suwannee Cooter, Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis, is a geographically limited turtle of conservation concern that inhabits Florida rivers draining into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Threats impacting its conservation status include take for human consumption, predation of turtles and nests, loss or degradation of nesting and basking habitat, water quality degradation, and boat strikes. Our surveys revealed that the Alafia River, which drains into Hillsborough Bay (northeastern Tampa Bay), is likely the stronghold of the southern distribution of P. c. suwanniensis. Multiple survey methods during 2015-2020 revealed that a substantial population of Suwannee Cooters inhabits much of this blackwater river system, including the main channel and at least one of its two primary tributaries. GIS analysis showed that more than half of the shoreline within the occupied extent is currently protected by conservation lands, although additional protection of private lands and improved habitat management protocols are needed to assure the population’s conservation.

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Published

2021-06-09