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Illinois researchers help declining turtle species

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014 12:04 a.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said it is taking steps to protect the state’s population of alligator snapping turtles.

The department teamed up with Oklahoma and Louisiana to release 97 turtles into southern Illinois creeks last week in an effort to revive the declining species. Staff from the Illinois Natural History Survey recorded data before affixing transmitters and data-loggers to the turtles. Staff from the Peoria Zoo, zoology students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Illinois high school students also helped prepare the turtles for their release.

The multi-state recovery project is funded by a state wildlife grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It will cover the costs of monitoring and tracking the radio transmitter-equipped turtles.

The turtles that were released in Illinois came from Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery in Oklahoma. They were paid for by donations made to the Illinois Wildlife Preservation Fund, as well as a grant awarded to Pontiac High School science teacher Paul Ritter, who oversees an endangered species classroom initiative at the school.

The alligator snapping turtle, which is the largest freshwater turtle in North America, is declining in Illinois due to channelization, levying and draining of floodplain wetlands.

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