Turtle fraservirus 1
The FWC is investigating a virus, that has been detected in multiple species of Florida’s native and nonnative freshwater turtles. This virus has been named Turtle fraservirus 1 (TFV1) in a recent publication but has been previously referred to as Turtle bunyavirus (TBV).
The FWC takes TFV1 seriously and is taking proactive steps to monitor and slow the spread of the virus. To reduce the geographic spread of TFV1, and lessen potential impacts of this virus, the FWC has enacted Executive Order #21-19 which prohibits the take and transportation of the following species: Florida softshell turtles (Apalone ferox), smooth softshell turtles (Apalone mutica), spiny softshell turtles (Apalone spinifera), and yellow-bellied sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta). In addition to Florida softshell turtles, the virus is also known to infect Florida’s cooter species (genus Pseudemys) and eastern snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina), which are already prohibited from being removed from the wild, and red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans), which are a conditional nonnative species. The EO will help to conserve native turtle species while biologists work to fully understand the impacts of TFV1. The FWC is also soliciting sightings of sick and dead freshwater turtles of any species for further investigation.
While this Executive Order is targeted at reducing the spread of TFV1 by prohibiting the take and transportation of known carriers, to minimize any additional potential spread, additional precautions including not moving or relocating any other turtle species would be beneficial.
Description of sick and dead turtles potentially infected with TFV1
Clinical signs of TFV1 may include all or some of the following: weakness, lethargy, swollen, closed or sunken eyelids, discharge from the nose or eyes, and splotchy red discoloration on softshells. Turtles with TFV1 may appear to have difficulty breathing, be reluctant to flee, and swim irregularly. A more in-depth description of infected turtles is available in the Frequently Asked Questions below.
To help assess the geographic distribution of the virus, the FWC is encouraging the public to report sick and dead freshwater turtles meeting the above description. Submit reports of sick, dead and strangely acting freshwater turtles by calling the FWC’s Freshwater Turtle Hotline at 352-339-8597, or by using the FWC Reporter App. Contact the FWC before handling sick or dead turtles.
Sick turtles may be transported to licensed rehabbers if needed. However, the FWC and rehabber should be contacted before transporting the animal.
The FWC and partners will continue to conduct monitoring and testing for this virus. Currently, the science (epidemiology) of TFV1 is not yet fully understood. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.
Frequently Asked Questions
Turtles infected with TFV1 may vary in appearance and severity of clinical signs. Turtles may appear lethargic, slow to respond to the presence of an observer, or without any obvious signs of injury. This may include the inability of a turtle to hold its head and neck up, or lack of general alertness if approached. In water, turtles may be seen swimming lopsided, in circular patterns or unable to fully submerge. Turtles with TFV1 may appear to have difficulty breathing and their eyes may appear sunken.
Clinical signs may include swollen or closed eyelids, often with a layer of crusty material coating the eyelids. Some turtles may have discharge from the nose and eyes. Softshell turtles may have a splotchy red discoloration on their bottom shell (plastron), neck and limbs.
The most important thing you can do is notify the FWC by calling (352) 339-8597 or using the FWC Reporter App on your smartphone.
In Florida, TFV1 has been detected in the following six species of freshwater turtles: Florida softshell turtle, peninsula cooter, Florida red-bellied cooter, yellow-bellied slider, red-eared slider and common snapping turtles.
It is possible that the virus may affect other turtle species, especially species that are closely taxonomically related to the known susceptible hosts. The FWC will continue to monitor reports of all species of sick or dead turtles.
There is no current evidence to suggest that humans or wildlife other than turtles can be infected with TFV1. It is possible that TFV1 infects other turtle species, including species outlined in the Executive Order. The FWC is monitoring reports of all sick and dead turtles to determine which species are susceptible to TFV1. Before handling a sick or dead turtle, contact the FWC.
Adhering to the prohibitions outlined in the executive order will help to slow the spread of this virus. Additional precautions, like not collecting or moving any species of turtle, or other reptiles, are good practices. Reporting any apparently sick or dead turtle to the FWC will help researchers monitor the spread of TFV1. Finally, sharing the reporting request from the FWC will help spread the reach of reports that are submitted.
The first mortalities associated with TFV1 may have been as early as January 2018, although the FWC was not notified of these deaths until March 2018. The FWC has been closely monitoring reported turtle mortalities since March 2018.
Currently, TFV1 has been detected in the following counties: Brevard, Collier, Indian River, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Putnam, and Seminole. However, reports of sick and dead turtles have been received from across the state, and the full extent of the TFV1 distribution throughout the state is unknown.
There is currently no known cure for this virus. FWC biologists are working with partners to learn more.