Abundance and harvest proportion of river turtles in missouri

Stephanie A. Shaffer, Jeffrey T. Briggler, Robert A. Gitzen, Joshua J. Millspaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Freshwater turtle populations are declining worldwide, yet managers have little information about the effects of commercial turtle harvests. In Missouri, the snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), smooth softshell (Apalone mutica), and spiny softshell (Apalone spinifera) are harvested commercially in the Missouri River. In 2011 and 2012, we conducted mark– recapture of these species to estimate abundance on the Missouri River and two unharvested tributaries, the Osage and Gasconade Rivers. We conducted mock harvests, applying capture methods of the state’s primary commercial harvester, to estimate plausible expected harvest proportions. Snapping turtle abundance per 2 km was lower at harvested units (X = 15; SE = 7.1; unharvested: X = 90; SE = 40.3). Smooth softshell abundance was greater at harvested units (X = 59; SE = 7.9; unharvested: X = 14; SE = 28.1), although the difference was not significant. Mean unique spiny softshell captures were similar at harvested (X = 18; SE = 4.3) and unharvested (X = 17; SE = 9.7) units. Expected harvest proportions averaged 23% across species (SE = 5%; range = 6%–79%), exceeding sustainable rates reported for turtles. Our results suggest that on a small scale, using these methods, harvesters can remove a substantial portion of river turtle populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-555
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Freshwater Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


This work was supported by the Missouri Department of Conservation [Cooperative agreement number 331; University of Missouri Project ID number 00030983].

FundersFunder number
Missouri Department of Conservation331
Southeast Missouri State University00030983


    • Abundance estimation
    • Apalone mutica
    • Apalone spinifera
    • Chelydra serpentina
    • Commercial turtle harvest
    • Harvest proportion
    • Missouri


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