ORLANDO, Fla. — Hundreds of dead and sick freshwater turtles are being found along the St. Johns River, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission needs the public's help to investigate this massive die-off.

  • FWC says at least 300 sick or dead turtles found along St. Johns River
  • Scattered turtles found in other locations
  • FWC needs help determining the extent of a possible virus in turtles throughout Florida

FWC says its found 300 sick or dead Florida softshell and cooter turtles along the river watershed, from the Palm Bay area up to Orange and Seminole counties and into Putnam County.

There have also been scattered reports of dead turtles at Trout Lake near Eustis, in Lake Apopka in Orange and Lake counties, and along waterways in Windermere and Cocoa Beach.

The majority of the cases found have been in softshell turtles.

Researchers at the University of Florida have been performing necropsies. They think a virus may be involved that is associated with diseased Florida softshell turtles, peninsula cooters and Florida red-bellied cooters.

FWC officials are trying to find out two things:

  1. What is causing the illness?
  2. Are there more causes throughout the state, outside of the St. Johns River area. 

If you see any dead or dying freshwater turtles, you are asked to call FWC's Fish Kill Hotline at 1-800-636-0511, submit a report online on the FWC website, or download the FWC Reporter app and send it through there. FWC says you can include a picture of the turtle through the app.

If you come across a dead or dying turtle, FWC says you should not touch it or attempt to move it, and don't try to capture or transport it either.