The Alabama Red-bellied Turtle (Pseudemys alabamensis)
--- saving North America's most endangered turtle from extinction---
Twenty years ago, the Alabama red-bellied turtle was listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as an Endangered species. Unmitigated road mortality has been the major threat to its continued survival.
The Alabama red-bellied turtle is a large herbivorous turtle that has the smallest distribution of any North American turtle species. It only occurs in streams and embayments in the lower part of the Mobile Bay Drainage System in Mobile and Baldwin Counties in Alabama. This species was listed as ENDANGERED by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1987 and was designated as the Official State Reptile of Alabama in 1990.
The Mobile Causeway (US 90/98) between Spanish Fort and Mobile, AL was built across islands and bays on the deltas of the Apalachee, Tensaw and Blakeley Rivers.
These sandy islands are important nesting sites for the Alabama red bellied turtle. Each year, gravid females come on shore to lay eggs along US 90. Many of these females and their hatchlings are killed on the highway. Dr. James Dobie of Auburn University first reported the road mortality problem in the early 1990ís to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alabama Department of Conservation.
Dr. David Nelson at the University of South Alabama in Mobile reported that from 2001-2006, 444 Alabama red-bellied turtles have been killed on the highway. Of these, 101 were females with eggs. The annual losses of 15-20 reproductive females (that require 12-15 years to reach maturity) in such a small population will result in a long-term population decline.
Alligators are also hit on the Mobile Causeway and often cross at night and are not easily seen by motorists. Large turtles and alligators on the Causeway present a significant traffic safety issue.
Click on topographic map to right to see a higher resolution map without arrows.
More Background Information
read the abstract from the recent presentation given by Dr. Matthew Aresco at the Southeastern Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
read the abstract from the recent presentation given by Dr. David Nelson at the 2007 Alabama Academy of Science meeting
Dr. David Nelson's 2003 final report
General Background (James Masek's watchable wildlife article)
Update: Alabama DOT has erected a fence that will keep endangered Alabama Red-bellied Turtles off the road. We commend the agencies involved, especially the Alabama Department of Transportation, for taking steps to prevent the endangered Alabama Red-bellied Turtle from going extinct. This is a great success story!
Fencing installed along new State Road 63 in Mississippi by Mississippi DOT to prevent Federally threatened gopher tortoises from being killed on the highway. A modified version of this design was use for the Alabama red-bellied turtle on the Mobile Causeway. Click on image for high resolution photo.
The Alliance thanks the many individuals who responded to our call to action by writing letters to ALDOT and other agencies urging them to solve the road mortality problem.
If you are interested in joining our mailing list so you can be apprised of the latest developments, send an email to email@example.com
Please send a brief note to the following agencies to thank them for helping to save the Alabama red-bellied turtle from extinction by constructing a fence along he Mobile Causeway
Ronnie Poiroux, ALDOT, Division Engineer
1701 North Beltline Highway
Mobile, AL 36618
Joe McInnes, Director
Alabama Department of Transportation
1409 Coliseum Blvd
Montgomery, AL 36110
H. Dale Hall, Director
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Southeast Regional Director
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 400
Atlanta, GA 30345-3319
M. Barnett Lawley
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
64 N. Union Street
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Save The Alabama Red-bellied Turtle Alliance
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