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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigating turtle die-off on Minnesota River in Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge

The cause of the die-off discovered over the weekend is not known. Staff estimate the die-off at 100 to 200 turtles but are currently in the process of collecting them. They have found painted and snapping turtles.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the die-off of turtles along an approximate, one-half mile stretch of the Minnesota River in the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. Staff there estimate 100 to 200 turtles have died, although they are still in the process of collecting them. The dead turtles include snapping turtles, like the one shown above, and painted turtles. Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune file photo

ODESSA — Staff at the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge in western Minnesota are investigating a turtle die-off discovered along the Minnesota River in the refuge over the weekend.

Visitors to the refuge on its auto tour route first reported spotting the dead turtles, according to Tina Shaw, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bloomington. Law enforcement for the refuge learned of the situation on Friday and began an active investigation.

Staff members are currently collecting the turtles to determine the extent of the loss. They are estimating 100 to 200 dead turtles. Collection efforts are ongoing and that is not a final count, according to Shaw.

The dead turtles include both painted and snapping turtles of various sizes. It’s not known if other species were affected. The turtles were discovered in the river water and on the riverbank along an approximate half-mile stretch of the river.


At this point, the cause of the die-off is not known. Samples from the turtles have been sent to a federal laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, for analysis.

Staff at the refuge were in the process of recovering the dead turtles on Monday and hope to get a more accurate number of the toll.

Visitors to the refuge are advised not to touch the turtles. Turtles are susceptible to salmonella and contact is not advised, Shaw said.

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