TALLAHASSSEE — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is researching a virus present in Florida known to be fatal in freshwater turtles, called turtle fraservirus 1 (TFV1). To aid in that effort, the FWC recently launched a new way to report sick, abnormal or dead turtles through a reporting form online at MyFWC.com/TFV1. This data will assist staff and partners as they work to better understand TFV1.
A turtle could be infected with TFV1 if it displays any of the following signs:
• Appears sluggish, unresponsive or reluctant to flee.
• Stays in shallow water or beached on banks for prolonged periods of time.
• Head and neck outstretched flat along the ground.
Through the new report form, the public can help the FWC by answering a few simple questions, providing location information and uploading any photographs that help document instances of sick or dead turtles. Submitted reports are still helpful even if the observer is unable to confidently identify the turtle. Observers can indicate on the report form if they approve of the FWC contacting them in the case that follow up questions arise from their reports.
The FWC has been studying TFV1, formerly known as turtle bunyavirus, since early 2018. The virus has been confirmed in turtles from Brevard, Collier, Indian River, Lake, Monroe, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Putnam, and Seminole counties, but could be present in additional counties throughout the state. TFV1 has been detected in softshells, cooters, sliders and snapping turtles. Reports of sick or dead turtles from the public can help the FWC detect TFV1 in other counties more quickly and understand if it infects other species of turtles.
To reduce the geographic spread of TFV1 and lessen potential impacts of this virus, FWC enacted Executive Order #21-19 in 2021, which remains in effect. This order prohibits the unpermitted take and transport of softshell turtles and yellow-bellied sliders and is intended to limit human-assisted spread of the virus. Turtles should not be captured, transported or released in a new location even if they appear healthy. If road conditions make it safe to do so, Good Samaritans may still help healthy-appearing turtles cross the road in the direction they were headed.
There is no current evidence to suggest that humans or wildlife other than turtles can be infected with TFV1. Turtles that appear sick or are dead should be reported to the FWC but not handled. Turtles that are acting strangely or appear unhealthy should not be consumed. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators can be contacted for care and treatment of sick or injured turtles.
For more information about TFV1, please visit MyFWC.com/TFV1.