About 50 turtles were euthanized last week after a local reptile rescue was told it could no longer adopt the red-eared sliders out to the public.
Mike Hopcraft, owner and operator of The Reptile Guy’s Rescue and Education Centre, takes in unwanted or injured reptiles and for some time has struggled with large numbers of surrendered turtles.
Last year, Hopcraft urged Abbotsford city council to restrict the sale of turtles under four inches long, hoping that would stop pet stores from buying large number of red-eared sliders, which eventually grow to about a foot long.
Hopcraft said often people will surrender them to the facility, or release them into local ponds where they are outnumbering native species like the endangered Western Painted Turtle.
Council voted down the proposal.
But now, Hopcraft says the province has stopped the facility from adopting the turtles out to people who are ready to take care of them.
He said the red-eared sliders are restricted under the provincial wildlife act. He has received conflicting information from the ministry of environment about what can be done with the turtles, but said he’s been told that he cannot adopt them out.
“They’ve been sold in pet stores forever, and all of a sudden, they’ve started enforcing these laws that have apparently been there forever. Now there are a whole lot of turtles that are paying the price.”
A spokesperson for the ministry provided information saying that red-eared sliders are considered wildlife under the Wildlife Act and that in most circumstances it is an offence to traffic or sell the animals. It is also an offence to transport, release, export or import live red-eared sliders without a permit and people are encouraged not to keep them as pets.
Hopcraft’s facility has a pond with a limit of 75 turtles in order to keep it clean. Currently, there are 105, and 21 were euthanized in January.
He said despite the fact that 50 more turtles have been euthanized, “we’ll replace those 50 by the end of the year.”
Hopcraft said he agrees that red-eared sliders shouldn’t be sold, but now he has to deal with the consequences of them being for sale.
He is trying to raise $25,000 for a bigger building that could also accommodate more turtles, but he said even with an increase capacity, they’ll reach it. They have raised $10,000 so far for the building.
Hopcraft said unfortunately, there is no end in sight for this problem, as turtles can live for around 40 years.
Hopcraft said it is difficult for him to hold the animals while they are euthanized, but he has been left with no choice.
“I’m here to help them, not to kill them.”
He said that he wants to warn people to take care when they take in an animal and make sure they can commit to its care.
For more, visit thereptileguy.ca.