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Homosassa Alligator Snapping Turtle Population Study

Homosassa Enigma

Watch FWC biologists and their collaborators set and check traps for alligator snapping turtles in the Homosassa River drainage during their first survey effort in 2023.

close up of alligator snapping turtle head by Kevin Enge

In April and June 2023, we trapped Pepper Creek in the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in southwestern Citrus County and confirmed the existence of a population of what appears to be the state-threatened Suwannee alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys suwanniensis). We marked 12 turtles in the sinuous downstream section and 1 turtle in the linear upstream section of Pepper Creek, which is a dredged drainage system. There are anecdotal reports of Macrochelys from nearby river drainages and visual proof from the Southeast Fork of the Homosassa River. We will verify the species’ identification using genetics and obtain a rough population estimate for the 1.5-km-long downstream section of Pepper Creek by trapping it twice more to recapture marked turtles. We will also trap the Withlacoochee River between the Suwannee and Homosassa rivers for the presence of Macrochelys. Interviews will be conducted to try to determine how long turtles have been observed in the Homosassa and the source of the introduction, if this is not a natural, extralimital population.

Stay tuned to learn what we find!