Fourteen sea turtle and land turtle species are listed as endangered or threatened in the United States.
|Additional Turtle Information
Types of Turtles
- Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas): Endangered
- Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata): Endangered
- Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii): Endangered
- Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea): Endangered
- Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta): Threatened
- Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta): Endangered
Land Turtles and Tortoises
- Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii): Threatened
- Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus): Threatened
- Alabama Red-belly Turtle (Pseudemys alabamensis): Endangered
- Bog Turtle (Clemmys muhlenbergii): Threatened
- Flattened Musk Turtle (Sternotherus depressus): Threatened
- Plymouth Red-Bellied Cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris bangsi): Endangered
- Ringed Map Turtle (Graptemys oculifera): Threatened
- Yellow-blotched Map Turtle (Graptemys oculifera): Threatened
Examining the causes leading to the listings shows habitat destruction ranks as the most important listing factor.
While generally true, the phrase habitat destruction can take on many different meanings, depending on the species and habitat in question.
The following review of the reasons behind the listing of the eight turtles in the United States as either threatened or endangered shows that habitat destruction can mean anything from road construction to illegal mining. Additionally, reasons such as a turtle's limited range, poor water quality and human and animal predation also place pressure on turtle populations.
According to the Federal Register (VoL 55, No. 63), when listing the Desert Tortoise as threatened, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, "Construction projects such as roads, housing developments, energy developments and conversion of native habitats to agriculture have destroyed habitat supporting tortoises in the Mojave population. Grazing and off-road-vehicle use have degraded additional habitat. The continued existence of the Mojave population also is threatened by illegal collection, an upper respiratory disease, excessive predation of juvenile tortoises by common ravens, and other factors."
According to the Federal Register (Vol. 52, No. 129), when listing the Gopher Tortoise as threatened, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, "The historic western gopher tortoise habitat has been reduced more than 88 percent by conversion to urban areas, croplands, and pasturelands. Certain forest management practices, such as prevention of fires and clear-cutting, have also reduced the quality of some remaining habitats. Taking of gopher tortoises has had a serious effect on some populations. All these problems are magnified by the turtle's fragmented range, the great length of time required for tortoises to reach sexual maturity, and by their low reproductive rate."
According to the Federal Register (Vol. 52, No. 115), when listing the Alabama Red-bellied Turtle as endangered, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, "This herbacious freshwater turtle is restricted to the lower part of the floodplain of the Mobile River drainage system in Baldwin and Mobile Counties, Alabama. There is only one know nesting area receiving annual use, and turtles nesting at this location are threatened by high incidence of egg predation end human disturbance."
According to the Federal Register (Vol. 62, No. 213), when listing the Bog Turtle as threatened, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, "The bog turtle is threatened by a variety of factors including habitat degradation and fragmentation from agriculture and development, habitat succession due to invasive exotic and native plants, and illegal trade and collecting."
According to the Federal Register (Vol. 52, No. 112), when listing the Flattened Musk Turtle as threatened, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, "Portions of its habitat have been eliminated by impoundments and agricultural, residential, and industrial development within the Black Warrior basin. It is threatened by overcollecting, disease, and habitat degradation from siltation and water pollution. Activities and sources that have historically contributed or may currently be contributing, to the siltation and pollution problems include agriculture, forestry, mining (conducted in violation of State or Federal laws and regulations), and industrial and residential sewage effluents."
According to the Federal Register (Vol. 45, No. 65), when listing the Plymouth Red-Bellied Cooter, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states, "The turtle is only known from Plymouth and Dukes Counties in Massachusetts. This action is being taken because the number of this spesies is low, the habitat of the species is subject to alteration, turtles have been reported as being harassed by people, and predation could be a negative factor in the continued survival of the species.
According to the Federal Register (Vol. 51, No. 246), when listing the Ringed Sawback Turtle as threatened, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said, "This basking turtle is found only in the Pearl River system of Mississippi and Louisiana. It seems to prefer wide sand beaches and a narrow channel with at least moderate current, and characteristically spends many hours basking in open sunshine on logs and debris over deep water. Some of its former habitat has been modified by reservoir construction and flood control, while other areas are marginal habitat due to water quality degradation and corresponding loss of its molluscan food supply. Most of the remaining habitat is threatened by flood control projects."
According to the Federal Register (Vol. 56, No. 9), when listing the Yellow-blotched Map Turtle as threatened, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated, "This basking turtle is known only from the Pascagoula River System in Southeast Mississippi. It is threatened by habitat modification, wanton shooting, collecting, water quality degredation and nest predation."
© 2010 Patricia A. Michaels