Warmwater turtles found in western Montana

State wants help in finding snapping turtles

MONTANA LIVING – It's not exactly the invasion of the snapping turtles, but these warmwater species are making inroads to western Montana, where they're not exactly welcome.

And now, after reports of snapping turtles being found in Milltown and elsewhere, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is asking for help from the public in reporting snapping turtle sightings in western Montana.

Snapping turtles are a native species east of the continental divide in Montana, but these turtles are non-native west of the divide and they can cause significant harm to native populations, FWP says. Turtles can have an effect on pond-dwelling species like frogs, turtles, snakes, ducks, and fish. Snapping turtles likely end up in waterways in western Montana through illegal releases of animals kept as pets, according to FWP.

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In 2018, FWP received a report of a snapping turtle in a backwater at Milltown State Park just east of Missoula. In 2019, FWP responded to a reported snapping turtle in the Rattlesnake Creek area just north of Missoula but was not able to locate it. In 2021, FWP is ramping up its efforts to find and remove snapping turtles, and reports of turtle sightings from the public are critical for this effort to be successful.

FWP would like to get a better sense of areas where snapping turtles may be living so biologists and managers can work to minimize the potential negative impacts. FWP is primarily concerned with snapping turtle sightings in the Clearwater, Bitterroot, and Blackfoot watersheds as well as the Clark Fork watershed upstream of the confluence with the Flathead River.

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It is rare that FWP receives a report of a snapping turtle in these areas, but even a few reports can provide important information for planning and prevention.

If you see a snapping turtle or hear reports of one in those watersheds listed above, please contact FWP’s nongame wildlife biologist for west-central Montana, Torrey Ritter, at 406-381-2339 or email torrey.ritter@mt.gov as soon as possible.

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