Capturing Spiny Softshell Turtles in the Bighorn Basin

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Capturing spiny softshell turtles in the Bighorn Basin

CODY — This spring and early summer Game and Fish crews have been capturing eastern spiny softshell turtles along the Bighorn and Nowood Rivers in the Bighorn Basin.

Spiny softshell turtles are a species of greatest conservation need in Wyoming due to their restricted range, declining populations and decreasing habitat.

Although observations of turtles have declined in recent years, not much is known about the species distribution or ecology in this portion of Wyoming.

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Turtles are being captured using partly submerged, baited hoop nets.

Before they are released, captured turtles are weighed, shell dimensions are measured, and passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags are inserted.

These tags will allow biologist to identify turtles that have been previously caught and can provide insight as to their growth, movement and size of the turtle population.

Fisheries Biologist Jason Burckhardt measures the shell of a spiny softshell turtle.

Trapping to date indicates that the species are rare in this portion of Wyoming with only nine turtles captured in 196 trap nights.

Did you know?  Unlike most other turtles, spiny softshell turtles are primarily aquatic, have rough leathery skin covering their shell and to some degree, have the ability to breathe through their skin underwater.