Reptile Guy encourages restrictions on selling turtles

Mike Hopcraft says red-eared slider turtles are being released into the wild, damaging ecosystems

An influx of red-eared sliders into Abbotsford's ponds and lakes has a local reptile rescue concerned.

An influx of red-eared sliders into Abbotsford's ponds and lakes has a local reptile rescue concerned.

Turtles may seem like nice pets, but the influx of red-eared slider turtles into a local reptile rescue – and Abbotsford’s ponds and lakes – has The Reptile Guy calling for restrictions on the sale of the creature.

Mike Hopcraft is the owner and operator of The Reptile Guy’s Rescue and Education Centre in Abbotsford, which takes in unwanted or injured reptiles and provides educational programming. Hopcraft said red-eared slider turtles are the number one animal surrendered to their rescue. They currently have 47 sliders in the turtle pond.

Although they start off small, sliders can grow to about a foot long. Pet stores buy and sell them when they are under four inches and still easily kept. When they grow larger than that, owners often decide to get rid of them.

“They end up being released into local ponds, which destroys the ecosystem. Or, we get them here at our rescue.”

Hopcraft said not only do sliders overwhelm the rescue facility, but because they are native to the U.S. but not to B.C., they cause environmental problems when released into the wild.

“They’re not that exotic, but they’re not supposed to be here.”

Hopcraft said sliders eat the eggs of native, endangered turtles such as the western painted turtle, as well as endangered frogs, salamanders and plants. He said he has even heard of them trying to eat ducks.

“These are turtles that are really destructive and will eat literally anything.”

Hopcraft hopes to encourage the city to adopt a ban on the sale of turtles under four inches long, which he said would stop pet stores from buying large quantities of turtles at a time and would lower the number in the community.

Completely banning the sale of turtles, which has occurred in communities such as Surrey, may not be the answer, said Hopcraft. He said there are turtles that make good pets, such as the Reeves, which are smaller and cleaner. Unfortunately, since their initial cost is higher than sliders, people can be discouraged from buying them and pet stores don’t always keep them in stock.

But in the long run, Hopcraft said keeping a red-eared slider will costs hundreds and potentially thousands more dollars due to their size and upkeep – the main reason people get rid of them.

“They’re a dirty animal. They get big. There is no good side to owning a red-eared slider.”

Hopcraft hopes to educate the community about turtles and the “ever-growing” problem of sliders before they begin to impact the environment.

He said sliders can survive in the wild in B.C., and although it would typically be too cold for their eggs to hatch, as summers become longer and warmer, they will be able to reproduce.

“This isn’t just a problem for rescues, this is a problem for our environment.”