Calling all turtle spotters

The French Broad Riverkeeper, Hartwell Carson, and Gabrielle Graeter, a wildlife biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, teamed up last week in an effort to find and study the rare Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle. This turtle is listed as a species of special concern in North Carolina, as outlined in the N.C. Wildlife Action Plan. Very little is known about this turtle and the last documented sighting in this section of the French Broad River occurred in 1984. The turtles have a flexible, pancake-like shaped body, a long neck and a pointed nose.

The goal of the study is to identify where Eastern Spinies are in Western North Carolina. Numerous turtle traps will be set and monitored throughout the summer in an effort to better understand this turtle’s status and distribution. Data are collected on the captured turtles and then they are released. This study will help the Wildlife Resources Commission understand if this turtle species is truly a species of concern to anyone besides other Eastern Spinies.

The study is off to a promising start.  Carson reports that several turtles have been spotted basking on rocks in the French Broad River and a few have been captured in traps. “This is a good sign that despite little documented evidence, these turtles might be thriving in and around the French Broad River.”

If you see this turtle in the mountain region, contact Graeter via e-mail at or 273-9097.

— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer

About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “Calling all turtle spotters

  1. James Reid

    I found a baby Soft-shell in Lake Junaluska in Haywood county I’ve got a couple of pics of the lil feller or gal

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.