Evaluating the Potential for Pathogen Dissemination with a Blanding’s Turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) Head Start Program
There are a number of different conservation methods that have been initiated to protect chelonians. For those species where reproduction is successful but recruitment is poor, initiating a head-starting program may be beneficial. Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) are one of the North American species of chelonians that meet the concern of poor recruitment. Programs throughout their range have been established to help conserve local populations. While there are obvious benefits to this type of program, it is not without risk. Chelonians are known to serve as reservoirs for a number of pathogens. How these pathogens act can be influenced by the environment in which they are found. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of Salmonella in captive hatched Blanding’s turtles from a head-start program in Illinois. One-hundred and twenty Blanding’s turtles from three different cohorts were sampled in this study. Culture samples were collected and processed using standard techniques. Salmonella was not isolated (0/120, 95% Confidence Interval: 0–2.5%) from this population. Instead, the most common isolates from these animals were Citrobacter braakii, C. freundii, and Enterobacter cloacae. All of these organisms are potentially zoonotic. Evaluating the antibiotic sensitivity profiles of the isolates suggests that the turtles leaving this head start program are unlikely to disseminate microbes with a negative impact on the environment.