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Friday, August 07, 2009

Bog turtle Disease Alert From USF&WS

We were sent this by those awfully nice people at Herpdigest, and asked to pass it on...


United States Department of the Interior
Pennsylvania Field Office
315 South Allen Street, Suite 322
State College, Pennsylvania 16801-4850

August 5, 2009

Over the past few months, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has received several reports of
dead and apparently diseased bog turtles from New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and
Pennsylvania. The number of bog turtles found dead in their wetland habitat (2 to 4 dead turtles in each of four wetlands in NY and MA) exceeds that which is typically reported.
In some cases, dead bog turtles have been found entirely intact, with no obvious cause of death.
On several live bog turtles, a grayish or whitish substance and/or discoloration has been
documented on the skin of the head, neck and limbs, as well as on the claws. In some cases,
these appear as skin lesions. Scute sloughing and loss of claws and toes has also been observed.
Based on data collected at a Massachusetts site, the symptoms appear to worsen over time.
At this time, the causative agent(s) of the observed symptoms has not been identified. However,
considering the risk this poses to bog turtles and potentially to bog turtle populations, the Service
is taking this matter seriously, and is seeking the voluntary cooperation of bog turtle surveyors
and researchers in implementing the following guidance, effective immediately:

1. Collect, label, and ship fresh-dead bog turtles1 to the U.S. Geological Survey,
National Wildlife Health Center in accordance with the attached Specimen History
Form and Shipping Instructions. Also, ship fresh-dead turtles of any species from
known bog turtle sites according to the same protocol. Do not send any species of
turtle that appears to have no retained internal organs.

a. The collection and shipment of dead bog turtles is authorized under the
Endangered Species Act, pursuant to the "Emergency Provisions" of Section 6
Cooperative Agreements the Service has in place with the various State wildlife
agencies in the northern range of the bog turtle. Under these emergency
provisions, "Any employee or agent of the Division who is designated by that
Agency for such purposes, may, when acting in the course of his official duties,
take federally-listed Endangered and Threatened fish or wildlife species without a
permit if such action is necessary to: (1) aid a sick, injured, or orphaned
specimen; or (2) dispose of a dead specimen; or (3) salvage a dead specimen
which may be useful for scientific study . . ."

1 This refers to fresh-dead turtles whose cause of death is unknown (e.g., do not ship road-killed turtles). Partiallyscavenged, fresh-dead turtles should be sent in for analysis, because one cannot confidently conclude that predationwas the actual cause of death (i.e., the cause of death is unknown).

b. Complete the attached Turtle Data Sheet (or a similar data sheet that records the
same information) and USGS Specimen History Form. When the specimen is
shipped, provide an email notification and attach copies of both completed forms
to: the Service's Pennsylvania Field Office (Carole Copeyon), the Service's
Regional Office (Alison Whitlock), the Fish and Wildlife Service point-of-contact
in your State, and the appropriate State agency point-of-contact2.

c. Fresh-dead specimens should be shipped for overnight delivery on a Monday,
Tuesday or Wednesday to ensure they will arrive during the same work week at
the National Wildlife Health Center. If a specimen is shipped on Thursday or
Friday, it will not arrive and be unpacked until the following week, well after the
packing ice has melted. Therefore, fresh-dead animals collected Thursday-
Sunday should be frozen until Monday shipping. Alternatively, if shipping late in
the week is warranted, contact the National Wildlife Health Center Field
Investigation Team to arrange for a special Saturday delivery. See shipping
instructions for details. Be sure to include both the Turtle Data Sheet and
USGS Specimen History Form with your shipment to the National Wildlife
Health Center.

d. Unless otherwise specified, the National Wildlife Health Center will ship bog
turtle specimens originating from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York to
the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and will ship specimens
originating from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware to the
Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

2. Collect, label and ship other bog turtle carcasses and shells (i.e., the ones that are
NOT fresh-dead) to your State wildlife agency, in accordance with State Scientific
Collector's Permit conditions. Complete the attached Specimen History Form and
Turtle Data Sheet and provide copies to the Service's Pennsylvania Field Office and
the appropriate State wildlife agency biologist (see list).

3. Provide information to the Service's Pennsylvania Field Office regarding:
a. Any dead, diseased or apparently unhealthy bog turtles you have found;
b. Any dead, diseased or apparently unhealthy turtles of any species at known bog
turtle sites; and
c. Multiple instances of mortality or disease of any turtle species in the same year at
any wetland site.
To the best of your recollection, please indicate the year in which these turtles were
found, as well as the number, condition (live, fresh-dead, shell only, shell with flesh,
etc.), location (state, county, lat/long), and symptoms.

4. At bog turtle sites, carefully examine live bog turtles (as well as turtles of other
species) found during your routine field surveys and/or research activities. Document
2 Contact information for USFWS and State agency biologists is attached to this bulletin.
any abnormalities3 on bog turtles via close-up photographs and complete the attached
Turtle Data Sheet. Submit the data sheet and photographs to the Service's
Pennsylvania Field Office. If there is a telemetry study occurring at the site where the
affected bog turtle was found, we recommend placing a transmitter on the affected
turtle(s) and 1) photo-documenting the affected area(s) of the body every 1 to 4
weeks, and 2) collecting relevant health data (e.g., body weight, notes regarding any
nasal or eye discharges, etc.). Similar information should be collected and reported
on other turtle species that appear to be diseased at known bog turtle sites. Please
note whether the site is flooded and provides little in the way of basking sites for

5. At this time, we are NOT recommending that live, affected bog turtles be removed
from their wetland habitat.

6. Do NOT euthanize any bog turtles.

7. Do NOT collect tissue samples from live bog turtles without specific Fish and Wildlife Service authorization.

8. Disinfect equipment and clothing to reduce the risk of spreading the agent(s)
responsible for the observed mortality and disease. See the attached Disinfection
Protocol for Bog Turtle Field Research, Surveys and Monitoring (August 2009).
Field biologists play a vital role in the early detection of incidents of wildlife mortality and
disease. The Service extends its sincere thanks for your cooperation in implementing this

3 In this case, "abnormalities" refers to those that appear to be related to disease or infection. However, also note instances of missing toes, whether they are healed over or not.

(revised 07/15/09)
Delaware and Maryland
Julie Slacum
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Chesapeake Bay Field Office
177 Admiral Cochrane Drive
Annapolis, MD 21401

New Jersey
Wendy Walsh
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
New Jersey Field Office
927 North Main Street, Bldg. D
Pleasantville, NJ 08232
609-383-3938, ext. 48

Connecticut and Massachusetts
Anthony Tur
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
New England Field Office
70 Commercial Street, Suite 300
Concord, New Hampshire 03301
603-223-2541, ext 24

New York
Robyn Niver
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
New York Field Office
3817 Luker Rd.
Cortland, NY 13045

Carole Copeyon
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Pennsylvania Field Office
315 South Allen Street, Suite 322
State College, PA 16801
814-234-4090, ext. 232
Regional Office

Alison L. Whitlock
Division of Wildlife & Sport Fish Restoration
USFWS Northeast Regional Office
300 Westgate Center Drive
Hadley, MA 01035

(revised 08/05/09)
Julie Victoria
Connecticut Dept of Environmental Protection
Wildlife Division
Franklin Swamp WMA
391 Route 32
N. Franklin, CT 06254

New Jersey
Brian Zarate
New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife
Endangered and Nongame Species Program
1 Van Syckles Road
Clinton, NJ 08809

Holly Niederriter
Nongame & Endangered Species Program
Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife
4876 Hay Point Landing Road
Smyrna, DE 19977
302-653-2880, ext 119

New York
Peter Nye
Endangered Species Unit
NYSDEC Division of Fish, Wildlife
& Marine Resources
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4754

Scott Smith
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Wildlife & Heritage Division
909 Main Street
Wye Mills, MD 21679
410-827-8612, ext 103

Chris Urban
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
Wildlife Diversity Section
450 Robinson Lane
Bellefonte, PA 16823

Lori Erb
Division of Fisheries & Wildlife
North Drive
Westborough, MA 01581

1 comment:

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