Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Joins Effort to Reintroduce Alligator Snapping Turtles to Neosho River Amid Species Recovery Efforts

By Trish Svoboda

Staff from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks are partnering with researchers from Missouri State University to reintroduce juvenile alligator snapping turtles into the Neosho River this fall.

Alligator snapping turtles have been absent from Kansas since 1991, largely due to over-harvesting and habitat fragmentation caused by dam and reservoir construction across their range. Currently, the species is undergoing evaluation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for potential listing as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

In 1999, the USFWS initiated a captive breeding program for alligator snapping turtles at a hatchery facility in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. Since then, approximately 1,200 juvenile turtles have been reintroduced into the Caney, Neosho, and Verdigris rivers in northeast Oklahoma. Despite these efforts, none of the released turtles have yet been found in Kansas.

Trevor Starks, Aquatic Species Recovery Coordinator, highlighted that due to multiple dams on these rivers, natural recolonization of alligator snapping turtles in Kansas is unlikely without human intervention. Starks emphasized, “Humans are the primary reason this species no longer occurs here, and I think it is fitting that humans be the primary reason they come back.”

Before release, the juvenile turtles will be tagged for tracking purposes, enabling researchers to monitor their movements and assess survival and growth rates upon recapture.

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