Alligator Snapping Turtle, Green Salamander May Be Getting Federal Protection
Reptile and amphibian species native to Kentucky are in the midst of a scientific review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if they need federal protection.
Both the alligator snapping turtle and green salamander are already being monitored as a “species of greatest conservation need” under the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ Wildlife Action Plan.
The alligator snapping turtle is extremely rare in the commonwealth, with only a handful of documented sightings over the last three decades in six western Kentucky counties. John Pollpeter is the lead naturalist at Land Between the Lakes’ Nature Station. He says though it’s been proven the animal lives in the bays of Kentucky Lake, he’s never actually seen one in 20 years on the job.
“They’re one that most people say that they see, but probably really don’t because they’re kind of a species that tends to hang out towards the bottom and rarely come out of water,” Pollpeter said. “The only time they come out of water is sometimes for the females to lay eggs.”
Pollpeter said the smaller common snapping turtle is often mistaken for the larger reptile.
The alligator snapping turtle is also found in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
The green salamander is more common in Kentucky, documented in 30 counties, mostly in the eastern part of the state. Its key habitats are in Powell, Breckinridge and Whitley counties. It is found in 12 other states in the U.S.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will now collect more information on the animals over a 12-month period before they can be declared endangered at the federal level.