Legislator’s bill aims for ‘legal equality’ of snapping turtles
Democratic state Rep. Matthew Lesser and environmental advocates in Middletown think not, so Lesser has introduced a bill for the January session with this stated purpose: “To promote full legal equality for Connecticut’s snapping turtles.”
The proposed bill would alter a 1971 law that exempted the snapping turtle, and no other creature, from laws that regulate trade in wildlife.
The 1971 law, contained in section 26-78 of the general statutes, allows the environmental protection commissioner to make rules regulating the trade in birds, quadrupeds, reptiles or amphibians, except for the snapping turtle.
In researching the legislative history for such a seemingly odd provision in the law, Lesser learned that legislators, over 40 years ago, feared that without the exemption, the law would make it illegal to sell turtle meat in Connecticut.
If successful, advocates believe the bill will help people catch up on their knowledge of the turtle and how it is fairing in Connecticut.
“Very little is known about this species,” in the wildlife in Connecticut, said John Hall, executive director at the Jonah Center for Earth and Art, an environmental advocacy organization in Middletown.
The law had been “allowing indiscriminate taking without really knowing what was happening with the species.”
Recently, through advocacy efforts, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection instituted some regulations, working around the 1971 law, that now requires permission to trap and limits on trapping season, as well as other rules.
About 400 applications were issued under the new DEEP regulation, Hall said, shedding some light on the level of interest in hunting the turtles.
According to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection website, countless turtles are killed or injured on roads during their terrestrial treks. The presence of a large turtle on a busy road can be a safety hazard for motorists.
In fact four years ago, the DEEP announced it was proclaiming 2011 the Year of the Turtle, with this statement:
“Turtles are in trouble. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature), an organization that maintains a comprehensive list of the status of the world’s species, categorizes 47 percent of all living turtle species as threatened.
“Because of the issues surrounding turtles and the need to raise awareness, Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, of which the Connecticut DEEP has been a member since 1999,” a year-long study was commissioned, according to the DEEP.
Lesser’s bill is now with the Environmental Committee.
The snapping turtle is common throughout much of the U.S. and is the largest fresh water turtle in the state, weighing in at up to 35 pounds. It can survive in polluted waters, according to a DEEP fact sheet. They are nocturnal, and spend much of their time underwater.