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Non-native turtles dumped in Quincy marsh

Non-native turtles dumped in Quincy marsh
  • More than ten invasive turtles that are illegal to keep in Massachusetts were found dead in the marsh at Caddy Memorial Park this week after likely being dumped there.

QUINCY – More than ten invasive turtles that are illegal to keep in Massachusetts were found dead in the marsh at Caddy Memorial Park this week after likely being dumped there.

Joanne Mainiero, president of the Massachusetts Humane Society in Weymouth, said someone walking in the park across from Wollaston Beach on Tuesday evening saw the turtles and emailed her the pictures.

A veterinarian from New England Aquarium who viewed the photos on Wednesday identified the turtles as red-eared sliders, aquatic turtle most commonly kept as pets. The turtles as native to the southern United States, including Texas and Louisiana, but have flourished in other places as released pets.

Officials hope to spread the word that releasing this species of turtle in local waters poses a risk to the environment and native turtles.

The red-eared slider is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as one of the world’s 100 most invasive species, according to Tony LaCasse, the media relations director at New England Aquarium.

Tom French, assistant director of MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species program, said the state was notified of the turtles at Caddy Memorial Park and planned to visit the site on Wednesday. Because red-eared sliders are a fresh-water species, he said they wouldn’t have survived long in a salt water marsh if the were dumped alive.

“They’re a common turtle in Asian food markets,” French said. “Whoever dumped them could have been trying to do a good thing by releasing them.”

French said the red-eared slider is an invasive species because it outcompetes native species, including the federally-endangered Northern red-bellied cooter.

The state once allowed pet stores to sell red-eared sliders, which can grow to be up to ten-inches long and weigh more than a pound. Owners of the turtles began releasing them when they got too large, allowing them to become established as a breeding non-native turtle in several areas of the state.

As a result, the state in 2014 modified wildlife regulations to ban the turtle from being sold in pet stores and imported into Massachusetts.

Jessica Trufant may be reached at jtrufant@ledger.com.