Southeastern Spotted Turtle Working Group

Spotted Turtle - Ben Stegenga

Our Partnership: The Southeastern Spotted Turtle Working Group is a partnership among state and federal agencies, universities, and NGOs with the mission of conserving Spotted Turtle populations in the southeastern United States. This effort is a continuation of a multi-state assessment of the Spotted Turtle, from Maine to Florida that occurred from 2018–2022 and was led by the Eastern Spotted Turtle Working Group. This initial project was funded by the states, universities, NGOs, and the USFWS through a competitive state wildlife grant (C-SWG). The current project (2023–2026) is also supported by a USFWS C-SWG, along with contributions from states from Florida to West Virginia, universities, and NGOs. It is being led by The Orianne Society, North Carolina State University, and the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

Our Goals: To conserve and manage Spotted Turtle populations in the southeastern U.S. by (1) filling existing data gaps, (2) conducting long-term demographic assessments, (3) creating a more effective sampling protocol for the southeast, (4) providing technical assistance to landowners, (5) restoring critical habitat, (6) combatting illegal trade, and (7) updating the existing Conservation Plan with data from the southeast.

Project Focal Area

Project Summary: Spotted Turtles (Clemmys guttata) have declined across their range and are of conservation concern throughout the United States and Canada. They have been identified as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in all 21 states where they occur, are considered Endangered by the IUCN, and are being considered for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as amended. In response to these broad appraisals, a status assessment and Conservation Plan were recently developed for the Spotted Turtle in the eastern United States. We will leverage the findings of this assessment and implement targeted initiatives outlined in the Conservation Plan designed to enhance population size and foster robust metapopulations of Spotted Turtles and associated SGCN in the southeastern U.S., from Florida to West Virginia. To do this, we will seek to identify priority wetland and terrestrial habitats for Spotted Turtles in the southeastern U.S., improve their habitat quality and quantity, and improve awareness of and protection from illegal trade. We will address data gaps in southeastern U.S. Spotted Turtle distribution through continued inter-state collaboration and research (Goal 1), develop long-term demographic assessment sites to evaluate population viability in six states (Goal 2), refine the standard sampling protocol to address detection challenges (Goal 3), provide technical assistance to landowner partners and restore critical habitats (Goals 4 & 5), hold an interagency workshop to combat illegal take of Spotted Turtles and other related freshwater turtle SGCN (Goal 6), update and refine the Conservation Plan with data collected in this project (Goal 7). We anticipate that the results and analyses from this project and the updated Conservation Plan will provide valuable information for the states as they address the listing decision of the USFWS and enable them, the USFWS, and partners to improve populations across the eastern U.S.

Documents and Forms

Conservation Plan

List of Partners

Andrew Grosse, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

David Steen, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Houston C. Chandler, The Orianne Society

Ivana Mali, North Carolina State University

Jeff Hall, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

John D. Kleopfer, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources

Jonathan Mays, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Kevin Lowrey, Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Kevin Oxenrider, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

Lisabeth L. Willey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Matt Elliott, Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Thomas S.B. Akre, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute