One of the search phrases that’s led people to this blog more than once is about “releasing pet turtles in Prospect Park.” People want to know if it’s OK to do so. The answer is: no, it isn’t, and you shouldn’t ~ which is what I hope they learned from the internet.
But, considering that I counted over seventy Red-eared Sliders in the Lullwater in November, the practice certainly continues. The Japanese Pond in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is another dumping zone for Brooklyn pet-owners.The Red-eared Slider is the common pet trade turtle, often sold in itty-bitty, evidently irresistible (and, if under 4″, plainly illegal) form. But of course, if the animal is lucky — although plenty of them die young — it grows bigger and bigger and bigger. A female can get to be the size of a large dinner plate, the males nearly that big. A native of the southeastern U.S., these sliders have become invasive in our region through releases from people who didn’t realize how big they could get, could no longer afford the increasing care costs (a very large tank is necessary for a plate-sized turtle), got bored with it, or otherwise outgrow it themselves (children are obviously cute-baited by the trade). Besides out-competing native species like the Painted Turtle, every release is a potential biological hazard, since it could introduce disease(s) to local turtle populations.
You are doing no good to the animal or the habitat by releasing it. Instead, search out adoption agencies like Turtle Rescue of Long Island. The mistake was the initial acquisition, so hopefully now, in making emends, you’ll be an evangelist for NOT BUYING TURTLES AS PETS. Let wild animals be.
I’ve seen them for sale on the sidewalk, and not only in Chinatowns. Brisk business was being gone right by Brooklyn Borough Hall not so long ago (no doubt the hucksters made a contribution to the Borough President’s “favorite charity,” wink, wink). Some years ago, I met some people who found a baby turtle in their table centerpiece at a wedding reception (every table had one, it was part of the design; the florist should have been flogged).
If you see something related to wildlife that you think is illegal, for instance the sale of any reptile or amphibian species native to New York State, or any turtles under 4″ being sold on the street, you can call the state’s hot line: 1-800-847-7332 to report it. I wish I’d known this when I saw those schmucks selling them on Court Street.
Possessing any one of the dozen species of native turtles in New York State is illegal.
Check out the NY Turtle and Tortoise Society for additional news, views, etc.