Wednesday, August 2, 2017,
We haven’t done any major cuteness here in a while so maybe we’re due. This little guy is a baby Red-eared Slider. This year’s model for certain. Unless you’re viewing this post on your Smart Phone, you’re seeing a larger than life image. Its shell is barely an inch long, if that.
These are good-looking turtles from the get-go. And that, unfortunately, is the reason they are here on Long Island and many other northern freshwater ponds and rivers. I’ve photographed them as far north as Maine. It’s illegal to sell them now but years ago these southern-based turtles were mainstays of any pet store you walked into. Most stores would have a display right there at the check-out counter. The whole kit came complete with the baby turtle, a one gallon terrarium (yes, you read that right), and a plastic palm tree. What the nice folks behind the counter didn’t mention was that these beautiful little turtles did not remain so little. In only a few years they did not only outgrow that tiny terrarium but they grew bigger than the terrarium itself. The once cute little turtle no longer fits on a convenient shelf in a bedroom. This poses a problem.
So what does one do with a child’s beloved pet when there’s no longer any room at the inn? Well, the answer for far too many folks, and for far too long, was to release these once loved animals into the wild. The reasoning was “It’ll be with its friends. It’s where it belongs.” The problem with that line of thought was that they did not belong here. Red-ears are a southern species of turtle but despite that they have thrived here and in many other places where they just shouldn’t be. There are now laws in place restricting the sale and release of these turtles (even in Florida) but the damage has already been done. This cute little guy wasn’t born in a pet shop, nor, probably, were his parents. For good or bad, these turtles are now a part of our Long Island landscape. There are so many of them that they are crowding out many of our own native species, including the even more beautiful Eastern Painted Turtle. Every year, on every freshwater pond, lake, or river, I see more invasive turtles than the very species that belong here. There’s something a whole lot wrong with that picture. JK