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Non-native turtles bought from pet stores and abandoned put Nova Scotia species at risk

By on June 12, 2021 0

Mr. T was supposed to be a temporary guest at Rhonda Fox’s, but instead the turtle became a permanent member of the family who even made his will.

Fox captured the red-eared slider, an invasive species in Nova Scotia, after being rescued and placed in the care of a friend. She was concerned that he would be released back into the wild, which she said can be a death sentence once an animal is domesticated.

It’s also bad news for the other turtles that have made Nova Scotia their home.

The Department of Lands and Forests has said non-native turtles bought from pet stores and then abandoned in the wild have become a big problem in Nova Scotia and threaten native turtle species already at risk.

“Please don’t release your pet turtles into the wild and don’t take wild turtles as pets,” Fox, who lives in Greenwood, NS, told CBC radio. Information morning this week.

Information morning – NS8:04What to do if you spot a turtle during nesting season

It’s turtle nesting season right now! With our four native species at risk, we find out what to do if you encounter a turtle, including any pet turtles released into the wild. 8:04

Owning a turtle is not for the faint of heart, she said. Reptiles can live up to 20 years in captivity, and Fox estimates Mr. T’s indoor habitat cost over $ 1,000.

“It’s expensive to install them with tanks and filters and proper lighting to mimic the outdoors,” she said.

It is also illegal to own a pet turtle in Nova Scotia and requires a special permit from the province. Fox said she sent her papers in and was in the process of getting one.

Invasive species compete for food, shelter

Bronwynne Conrad-Martin, education coordinator in Lands and Forestry’s wildlife division, said red-eared sliders and yellow-bellied sliders often end up being abandoned in Nova Scotia.

People will bring them here when they move to the province, not realizing that they are illegal. Sometimes, pet turtles are released into a body of water to fend for themselves.

“He will be competing for food, shelter and space,” Conrad-Martin said. “A turtle, in captivity, could have different diseases, fungi and parasites… so you are putting our species in great danger.

All four of Nova Scotia’s native turtle species are at risk to varying degrees, in part due to habitat loss. Blanding’s Turtles are Endangered, Wood Turtles are Endangered, Snapping Turtles are Vulnerable, and the Eastern Painted Turtle has just been listed as Special Concern under the Species at Risk Act from the federal government.

Snapping turtles, found in Nova Scotia, emerge from a nest. (Turtle Patrol / Facebook)

In addition to people abandoning their pet turtles in the wild, there’s also the reverse problem, Conrad-Martin said.

“A lot of times people bring a turtle home without knowing it’s actually illegal to do so,” she said.

“A little turtle that’s a dollar-sized hatchling, they’re adorable… but there are so many other factors that come into play, and there isn’t a lot of solid education around. it.”

Fox bequeathed her turtle to the North Mountain Animal Sanctuary, where she volunteers.

The Annapolis Valley nonprofit was founded 10 years ago as a refuge for farm animals, but is now welcoming more abandoned animals like rabbits, hedgehogs and guinea pigs.

Co-founder Amanda Dainow said they have agreed to take care of Mr. T, “this is an exceptional circumstance.”

“We’re unfortunately very comprehensive, so it’s not that we normally recommend that people leave us animals in their wills. But we do know. [Fox] and we have turtles ourselves and have some experience dealing with them, ”she said.

What to do if you have or find a turtle

Even though the sanctuary is at full capacity, Dainow encourages people to reach out if they don’t know what to do with their pet turtles. She said they can work with other local organizations to try to find them a home.

Conrad-Martin, meanwhile, advises people who already own an exotic species of turtle to contact the provincial government at [email protected] to find out their options and how to obtain a permit.

She also said that anyone encountering a turtle in the wild should educate scientists using iNaturalist app so they can track how much is left and how they are doing.

Information morning – NS8:1710th Anniversary of the Northern Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary

Amanda Dainow, Co-Founder and President of North Mountain Animal Sanctuary, talks about the animals they welcome. Plus, hear from a woman who bequeathed her pet turtle to the shrine. 8:17

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