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Public asked to report snapping turtle sightings in western Montana

Snapping Turtle
Posted at 9:45 AM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 16:05:30-04

KALISPELL - State wildlife officials are asking for help from the public in reporting snapping turtle sightings anywhere west of the Continental Divide.

In Montana, snapping turtles are a native species east of the Divide, but they are non-native west of the Divide and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) says they can cause significant harm to native populations of pond-dwelling species such as frogs, turtles, snakes, ducks, and fish.

Snapping turtles typically end up in waterways outside their native range through illegal releases of animals kept as pets. It is illegal to dump aquarium pets into waterbodies, but FWP notes unwanted aquarium pets are still repeatedly released into natural waterways. The releases usually occur at ponds or river access sites located near urban areas and can result in long-term negative impacts.

FWP is trying to find where snapping turtles may be living to minimize the potential negative impacts. Western Montana’s only native turtle species is the painted turtle, which have a bright orange underside and generally do not grow to more than a foot long. Snapping turtles can get much larger and have noticeably longer tails, often with a spiky ridge extending down their length. Snapping turtles also have large heads and distinctive hooked upper beaks.

If you have information on the possible sighting of a snapping turtle in northwest Montana, you're asked to contact Jessy Coltrane at 406-751-4584 or email Possible sightings in west-central Montana can be made to Torrey Ritter at 406-542-5551 or

The “Don’t Let It Loose” campaign provides information to pet owners about rehoming unwanted pets. Learn more at