LAKE CHARLES, LA (WVUE) - Following a "significant population decline" in the Calcasieu River Basin, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries released juvenile alligator snapping turtles into the wild.
Numerous alligator snappers, the heaviest freshwater turtles in the world, were released on Monday
The release was made from Sam Houston Jones State Park north of Lake Charles.
The alligator snapping turtle has experienced significant population declines throughout its range, according the LDWF. It is a species of conservation concern in the state of Louisiana, and is listed as a species of greatest conservation need in the Louisiana State Wildlife Action Plan.
Since 2012, LDWF has operated a head start program for alligator snappers at the Monroe hatchery facility. The purpose of this program is to ensure a reliable source of turtles for release to supplement populations in the wild. By head starting these animals in captivity, survival rates should increase significantly as the juvenile animals will be too large for many potential predators, according to LDWF.
A determination of whether or not to list the alligator snapping turtle under the Endangered Species Act is scheduled for 2017 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.