On Thursday, May 16, Teatown Lake Reservation, an 875-acre nature preserve in Westchester County, took in 23 adult snapping turtles seized by DEC
officers. Officers Timothy Machnica and Brent Wilson took the
snapping turtles from a Chinatown food market where the owner had recently
illegally purchased the wild collected turtles. Some of the turtles were
suffering from dehydration and minor wounds from having been, according to
officers, kept in harsh conditions. The officers transported all 23 turtles, ranging in size from 10 to 30lbs, to Teatown and transferred their care
to Teatown Animal Care staffers and NYS licensed wildlife rehabilitators Erin
Baker and Lisa Kelly.
New York State Law protects all NY native species of turtles, including the Common
Snapping Turtle, from being taken from the wild, sold, or possessed without a
proper state permit. These particular turtles, suspected of having been
locally harvested, have been given a second chance to be brought back to health
and released when appropriate.
“The smallest of the group are the size of a dinner plate, and about 1/3 of them are
easily the size of a Thanksgiving turkey platter. As wildlife
rehabilitators, it is our job not just to ensure the individual animals’ health,
but to also consider any impacts to the wild population if released. Once
deemed healthy, we will evaluate proper release sites for these sizable turtles,
so as not to overpopulate any one particular pond. It will be a large
number of road trips throughout the region undoubtedly,” said Ms. Baker.
While not part of their regular animal care duties at Teatown, Wildlife Rehabilitators
Erin Baker and Lisa Kelly are licensed volunteers by the NYSDEC and use their
own time and funds to help injured and sick wildlife, specializing in the care
of native reptiles. For information on how you can become a volunteer
licensed wildlife rehabilitator visit www.nyswrc.org.
“Most species of turtles worldwide are in a state of decline due to overharvesting and
habitat loss, and I am glad that our DEC enforces the law to protect all native
turtles. While considered common, and intimidating by some, these large
prehistoric snappers are quite docile in their ponds where they help provide a
proper balance to our ecosystems. And, they are, afterall, our New York
state reptile,” said Ms. Baker