Regional Offices > Cody Region > Cody Region News > Game and Fish seeks sightings of spiny softshell turtles in Big Horn Basin

Game and Fish seeks sightings of spiny softshell turtles in Big Horn Basin

May 13, 2021
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Cody - The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking the public to report sightings of Eastern spiny softshell turtles in the Big Horn Basin. 
 
Spiny softshell turtles are a species of greatest conservation need in Wyoming due to their restricted range.  Although populations are thought to be stable in eastern Wyoming, the public, local landowners, and regional biologists have reported declines in the Bighorn River Basin. Justin Autz, Game and Fish herpetologist, is leading a two-year research project to understand more about the species distribution and ecology in this portion of Wyoming. 
 
“These turtles now appear to be rare and public reported sightings of spiny softshell turtles play an important role in local research by helping Game and Fish better locate sites for live trapping and marking turtles as part of an effort to learn more about these populations. In a 2018 pilot study, many of the turtles captured were a result of reported observations,” Autz said. “It's a great opportunity for members of the public to get involved in citizen science and provide information that can help in local research.”
 
The spiny softshell turtle is one of the largest in North America. They have a soft, flat, rubbery outer shell. Females can be up to 20 inches long and are generally twice as large as males.  In the Big Horn Basin, spiny softshell turtles have been found in the Bighorn River between Thermopolis and Bighorn Lake and in the Nowood River. They are most active from May to September but are most frequently encountered in July and August. Their breeding season starts in May and they typically nest in sand or gravel bars starting in July.
 
To report sightings, call or email Justin Autz at justin.autz@wyo.gov or (262) 337-3027. Please provide the date of the observation and as specific of a location as possible. 


A male spiny softshell turtle. 

A female spiny softshell turtle. This female is about twice the size of the male pictured above. 

- WGFD -


 
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