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Spotted turtle at risk for endangered species list, researchers say

A species of turtle in Rhode Island appears to be in trouble, according to a new study. (Submitted photo)

A species of turtle in Rhode Island appears to be in trouble, according to a new study.

Scott Buchanan, Ph.D., a recent graduate at the University of Rhode Island, conducted the study in partnership with URI Associate Professor Nancy Karraker.

"The entire sampling effort took three years. We sampled 88 different wetlands throughout the entire state repeatedly," said Buchanan.

Out of nearly 2,000 freshwater turtles caught and examined for research, only 50 were Spotted Turtles. Researchers told NBC 10 News that while the species used to be popular, the data compiled indicates it might be at risk.

Buchanan said Spotted Turtles he helped capture were for the most part only found in wetland areas surrounded by forest, such as ponds and lakes.

"These are areas where human impacts have been minimal over time," said Buchanan.

Researchers hope their data helps lead to more of an effort to protect Spotted Turtles.

"The way that we can use that information is to work with existing stakeholders involved with conservation here in the state. It might be state officials, federal officials, non-profit, to best effectively manage populations going forward," said Buchanan.

The Spotted Turtle is considered to be of high conservation concern in Rhode Island. It's a candidate for the United States endangered species list.

Over the course of the study, researchers also realized the population of one type of turtle considered to be an “invasive species” in Rhode Island is more widespread than they anticipated.

The Red-Eared Slider, native to the south, is often purchased at pet stores and released into the wild. Researchers said they’re not sure if Red-Eared Sliders are reproducing in the wild.

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