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Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument
Release Date: 06/25/13
Contacts: Connie Jacobs    
  (406) 622-4020    

BLM’s Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center Welcomes Spiny Softshell Turtle Expert to Fort Benton

FORT BENTON – Have you ever seen a pancake with legs?  For those who have been lucky enough to see a spiny softshell turtle, this is a common description.  Very little is known about these unique reptiles in Montana.

Brian Tornabene, a researcher from Montana State University, has been working for the past three years on the Upper Missouri River to shed more light on their lives.  His program is titled "Surly Spiny Softshell Secrets: Life History and Ecology of a little-known Montana Turtle.”

 “They’re wary and secretive, and you don’t see them a lot of times, so to understand them is really cool,” said Tornabene.  He will provide a free program at the Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center in Fort Benton at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 22.

Tornabene’s study is the first intensive research ever done in Montana on softshell turtles.  Tornabene refers to the spiny softshell as “surly” from experience.  As one of the fastest swimming turtles around, it is quite difficult to catch one. Picking up a wild spiny softshell is not recommended. They have long, flexible necks and are able to reach around and bite hard if provoked and scratch with their claws.

Tornabene will be sharing information and stories he has uncovered from his three years of studies.  This information will be valuable for future management decisions, as well as just increasing the general body of knowledge about this secretive creature.  Join us and learn some of the secrets revealed by the spiny softshell turtle.

This program is free and open to the public.  The Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center is located at 701 7th Street, Fort Benton, Mont.

For more information, call the Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center at (406) 622-4000. For the latest BLM news and updates visit us on the web at, on Facebook at, or follow us on Twitter @BLM_MTDKs.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Last updated: 06-25-2013