Snapping turtles are not native to Western Montana. Sometimes, pet snapping turtles are let loose in the area and they can be destructive to the other native species such as frogs, snakes, ducks, fish and, yes, other species of turtles.

Vivaca Crowser of Montana Fish, Wildife and Parks (FWP) said that a snapping turtle was found at the Milltown State Park near Missoula in 2018 and the next year one was reported, but not found, in the Rattlesnake Creek area. So, the department is asking the public's help in trying to locate any of these creatures.

Crowser said FWP is concentrating their searches in the Clearwater, Bitterroot, Clark Fork and Blackfoot watersheds. If you're unsure the turtle you see is a snapping turtle, call the FWP's nongame wildlife biologist, Torrey Ritter, at 406-381-2339 as soon as you can. That's the number to use to report snapping turtle sightings, too. You can also e-mail her at: torrey.ritter@mt.gov

A species of snapping turtles is native east of the continental divide and are found in areas farther south than Montana. However, any found in western Montana probably were from illegal releases. That's a reminder to not release any wild animal that has been treated as a family pet. Contact Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for advice.

The only native turtle to western Montana is the Chrysemys picta, otherwise known as the Painted turtle. It's a little thing with the largest ones about 9 inches in length. They have yellow lines along their shells, necks and legs. Eastern Montana has a few more native turtle species, including Red-eared Sliders and Softshell turtles. By the way, all native reptiles cannot be taken for commercial purposes in Montana.

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