One of the world’s smallest snakes, this parthenogenically-reproducing species is also called the flowerpot snake because it’s believed to have been spread around the world’s tropics by stowing away in plants.
Like other members of the blindsnake family, it has tiny eyes that are covered with skin and feeds mainly on ant larvae and termites, avoiding retaliation with its incredibly smooth scales that are almost impossible for an ant’s jaws to grasp.
A few days ago I noticed that one of the softshell turtles in my nearby pond has a very unique look. I was thinking he might be piebald (which is a genetic mutation that disrupts skin pigmentation), but I’ve never seen or heard of a piebald softshell. Take a look at this weirdo ⬇️
Since I wasn’t sure what was up with this dude, I did what I always do whenever I see something weird going on with a wild animal; I called my local Fish & Wildlife! This might sound like a crazy reaction to seeing a splotchy turtle but I actually learned something extremely important that I would love for my followers (especially those in Florida) to know about too. After calling F&W I spoke with the turtle specialist for quite some time, as it turns out there is an unknown pathogen killing softshell turtles in Florida, and biologists are desperate to find the cause. They need our help to do this! The biologist that I spoke with says they’re relying on civilian reports to find cases for further study, so it’s incredibly important to spread the word and make sure people know how to report any abnormal appearance or behavior in turtles that they see.
Fortunately my splotchy turtle (I call him Uncle Walter) doesn’t seem to be sick based on his presentation or behavior! The turtle experts examined his photos and at this point they agree he is probably just piebald, though they asked me to keep an eye on him and make sure his condition doesn’t change. I’m so happy that I am armed with knowledge I can use to monitor him and his friends in the face of this worrisome unknown illness.
To my friends here in Florida- if you see ANY wild turtle that looks sick, weak, distressed, or abnormal please contact Fish and Wildlife immediately using the information provided below! To my non-Fl friends, if you have any contacts that enjoy herping or just outdoor activity in the state please let them know about this as well. Our turtles are very dear to us and reporting possible illness is the best way we can help find what’s killing these animals.