Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) are asking for the public to report any snapping turtles they see in West-Central Montana.
In 2018, a large snapping turtle was spotted in a backwater at Milltown State Park just east of Missoula, but so far biologists have been unable to find the turtle.
Common snapping(Chelydra serpentina) turtles are native to Montana and can be most commonly found in the southeastern part of the state.
The turtles are not native to the west of the continental divide, and likely end up in waterways through illegal releases.
FWP Nongame Wildlife Biologist Torrey Ritter says right now they have the opportunity to remove the invasive species before it has a chance to establish itself, and wreak havoc on the ecosystem.
“Pond dwelling organisms and other species that live in the backwaters and sloughs just aren’t used to snapping turtles being around,” said Ritter. “Because of that, snapping turtles can have this sort of disproportionately large impact on those species because they haven’t figured out how to escape or at least be wary of snapping turtles being around.”
FWP is primarily concerned with snapping turtle sightings in the Clark Fork, Bitterroot, and Blackfoot watersheds.
It is rare that FWP receives a report of a snapping turtle in these areas, but even a few reports can provide important information for planning and prevention.
Anyone that sees a snapping turtle in those areas are asked to take a picture if possible and report it to FWP by calling 406-542-5551 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Snapping turtles usually don’t have conflict with humans, but they can try to bite people or pets if they feel threatened or cornered.
Ritter advises not to attempt picking one up as the bite can be quite brutal.