Snapping Turtles Under Attack--Take Action
Friday, May 17, 2013

The New York State legislature has introduced a  destructive bill (A2490) legalizing the capture and killing of snapping turtles by hand, hook, spear, clubbing, and hoop trapping. Snapping turtles have few protections under current law and these changes will dramatically increase the danger to these  vulnerable animals, and enshrine yet another form of animal cruelty into New York Law. The bill has passed the Senate is and  is currently in the Assembly Codes Committee. This proposed legislation is inhumane and based in bad science. Turtles are already  vulnerable to an existing  multitude of threats such as loss of habitat,  mortality rates of pregnant females crossing roadways, high  hatchling  death rates etc. Killing snapping turtles by traps will only increase their population loss. They need to be protected, not killed.

Would you please make a 30 second call ( simply leave a message with the receptionist)   and/or   email  to the following legislators.  

1.       Assembly Speaker  Sheldon Silver - (518) 455- 3791.

2.       Assemblyman Lentol, Chair of Codes -  (518)  455-4100

A sample letter can be seen below:

Dear Speaker Silver,

I am writing in hopes that you will do everything in your power to prevent Bill A2490, which legalizes the capture and killing of snapping turtles by trapping and other means, from becoming law.

Subsections 20-21 are extremely alarming:
"SNAPPING TURTLES may also be taken by spearing, catching
 21  with the hands, or by the use of a club or hook"

It is foolhardy as a matter of public-health policy to encourage people to obtain snapping turtles by "catching with the hands." While normally very passive and vulnerable, a snapping turtle's only defense is it's powerful snap, which can cause major injuries, if not permanent maiming. Why encourage the public to take such risks?

With regard to "spearing" or "the use of club, or hook", these are inhumane means of capture and should not be under consideration. Killing a snapping turtle by these methods will take hours, if not days, and cause severe pain and suffering to the animal. Moreover, these subsections reveal that this bill was not drafted with any knowledge or understanding of snapping turtle biology and behavior.

Our State reptile has existed unchanged for 90 million years and once walked with the dinosaurs. These animals do not reach sexual maturity until 12 years of age and there is a documented case of a common snapping turtle living to be over 130 years. (Biology of the Snapping Turtle, Gibbons.) Every reproductive female is vital to maintaining a stable population. With such reproductive fragility, a small reduction could easily spiral snapping turtles into extinction. The claim that harvesting of individuals is sustainable is outdated and is not supported by scientific study. They are in need of more protection, not less.  

Traps do not discriminate and there will always be by-catch and incidental kills. (see page 26 of the US Fish and Wildlife presentation This practice will stress the already fragile populations of New York's native turtles, such as the endangered Eastern mud and Federally listed bog turtle. Also impacted will be the threatened Blandings turtle, as well as the Eastern box turtle, wood turtle, spiny softshell and spotted turtle, which are species of special concern. Map and painted turtles and the diamondback terrapin will experience unsustainable takes as well.

By allowing trapping, you will render this state resource vulnerable to the insatiable appetite of the International food trade.

In the Unitied States alone, the annual trade of wild-caught amphibians and reptiles includes millions of individuals. During 1998-2002, the United States exported 26 million wild-caught reptiles (Herpetology, by Vitt and Caldwell.) Many foreign countries have hunted their indigenous turtles to near or complete extinction and are now fueling the increasing demands by importing turtles from the United States. Once one species is extirpated, the focus simply moves on to another species for exploitation. This should not be the fate of New York's majestic snapper.

Please see page 31 of the report on Operation Shellshock by the US Fish and Wildlife on an illegal poaching operation in New York. They confiscated over 2,000 pounds of snapping turtles illegally poached.

If trapping were to be made legal, by-catches and incidental takes would only grow, as non-permitted trapping will still take place. This Act will impede the ability of authorities to control clandestine illegal trapping, since this can easily take place under the guise of permitted activity. It will also create a cloak under which poaching (for food and the illegal pet trade) of other species can go undetected, as a classic smuggling technique is to include endangered and threatened species among legal shipments (Stolen World: A Tale of Reptiles, Smugglers, and Skulduggery.)

The justification pertaining to "nuisance snapping turtles" is deceptive at best, there are already existing legal mechanisms (law enforcement, animal control and other licensed individuals) for dealing with nuisance animals of any kind. Unmolested snapping turtles are docile.

Please contact me regarding any action taken.

Patricia S Johnson
NY State licensed wildlife rehabilitator #1337