Press Release
Service Finalizes Listing for the Pearl River Map Turtle
Four other species of map turtles included in the listing due to similarity of appearance

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the final listing of the Pearl River map turtle as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Native to Mississippi and Louisiana, the listing of this turtle reflects the growing extinction crisis and highlights the importance of the ESA and efforts to conserve species before declines become irreversible.This final rule becomes effective on August 12, 2024.

“The science that the Service has gathered on the Pearl River map turtle indicates it could become endangered in the near future,” said Fish and Wildlife Biologist Luke Pearson. “These native freshwater map turtles are at risk and need our help. Working with state fish and wildlife agencies and our partners to conserve them is a priority. Adding the other four species of map turtles to this listing, due to their similarity in appearance, will help advance conservation efforts and the eventual recovery of the Pearl River map turtle.”

Due to human impacts from harvesting, habitat loss and degradation, and climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change
impacts such as sea level rise, flooding and drought, future projections for the Pearl River map turtle show populations becoming increasingly isolated.  

Only an estimated 21,000 Pearl River map turtles remain in the wild. 

The Service included the Alabama, Barbour’s, Escambia and Pascagoula map turtles as threatened under section 4(e) of the ESA due to their similarity of appearance to the Pearl River map turtle. These five species look very similar, and the difficulty in identifying them poses a challenge for federal and state law enforcement agents to protect the Pearl River map turtle from illegal collection. A 4(e) similarity in appearance rule prohibits take, but it does not extend all protections of the ESA such as consultation requirements or recovery planning provisions.

The Service used the flexibility provided under section 4(d) of the ESA to tailor take prohibitions for the conservation of species. This targeted approach helps reduce regulatory burdens by exempting certain activities that are beneficial to, or do not significantly harm the species while focusing conservation efforts on the threats detrimental to recovery.

Critical habitat is prudent for the Pearl River map turtle, but not currently determinable. When critical habitat is not determinable, the ESA allows the Service an additional year to publish a critical habitat designation. We anticipate publishing proposed critical habitat in the near future.

For more information about these five species of map turtles, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit Connect with us on social media: Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), Flickr, and YouTube. 


Story Tags

Endangered and/or Threatened species
Rivers and streams