Recent FTCT Publications on the Southern Distribution of the Suwannee Cooter

Scenic view of the Alafia River (Hillsborough County, Florida), home to an abundant population of the Suwannee cooter (Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis). Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Scenic view of the Alafia River (Hillsborough County, Florida), home to an abundant population of the Suwannee cooter (Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis). Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Understanding the geographic distribution of turtles is fundamental to conservation and management. Restricted to rivers that drain into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico along the northwest coast of Florida, the southern distribution and status of the Suwannee cooter (Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis) is uncertain and hence of conservation concern. George L. Heinrich and Timothy J. Walsh, supported by volunteers, continue to survey Gulf Coast rivers in an effort to determine the true distribution of the largest member of the speciose turtle family Emydidae. Prior to this work, a long-believed distributional gap of ~79 km occurred between the Weeki Wachee River and Alafia River (previously the southernmost documented occurrence; see map). Over the past two years, we have completed rapid assessment surveys that found the species in the Pithlachascotee and Anclote rivers. Our team also documented the occurrence of Suwannee cooters in the Chassahowitzka, Little Manatee, and Manatee rivers. The following geographic distribution notes published in Herpetological Review provide five new river records, two new county records, and a range extension.

Heinrich. G.L. and T.J. Walsh. 2017. Geographic Distribution: Suwannee cooter (Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis). Herpetological Review 48(1):124. (click here for .pdf)

Walsh, T.J. and G.L. Heinrich. 2016. Geographic Distribution: Suwannee cooter (Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis). Herpetological Review 47(3):422-423. (click here for .pdf)

Heinrich, G.L. and T.J. Walsh. 2016. Geographic Distribution: Suwannee cooter (Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis). Herpetological Review 47(3):422. (click here for .pdf)

Walsh, T.J. and G.L. Heinrich. 2015. Geographic Distribution: Suwannee cooter (Pseudemys suwanniensis). Herpetological Review 46(3):382. (click here for .pdf)

We continue to survey the north and south prongs of the Alafia River as part of a project to determine the distribution and status of the Suwannee cooter in this beautiful, yet anthropogenically-disturbed, tannic river. For more information on this work, please see an earlier blog posting below.

Basking juvenile Suwannee cooter (Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis) on the Anclote River (Pasco County, Florida). Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Basking juvenile Suwannee cooter (Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis) on the Anclote River (Pasco County, Florida). Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Future work includes surveys of the Hillsborough River (within the former distributional gap), as well as rivers south of the Manatee River. In addition, we hope to determine why famed Florida naturalist and turtle biologist, Archie Carr, stated that this species occurred in Pinellas County when there is no supporting evidence. Challenges in the field, museums, and office are more than compensated for by opportunities to drive conservation and experience wild Florida. We are most grateful to Jim Caldwell, Lynn Marshall, and Ernie Simmons for their support in the field.

Basking adult Suwannee cooter (Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis) on the Little Manatee River (Hillsborough County, Florida). Photograph by James F. Caldwell.

Basking adult Suwannee cooter (Pseudemys concinna suwanniensis) on the Little Manatee River (Hillsborough County, Florida). Photograph by James F. Caldwell.