City slow but sure over turtles

Langley City will join other Lower Mainland municipalities in regulating the sale and breeding of non-native turtles.

The City has introduced a bylaw aimed at protecting wetlands and species at risk.

The public can offer input into the change to the business licence bylaw at council’s committee-of-the-whole meeting at 7 p.m. on April 7, at Langley City Hall.

Andrea Gielens, with the Wildlife Preservation Trust, appeared before City council on Feb. 3 to ask for a ban on the sale and breeding of pet turtles.

She noted that, although there is federal legislation that should prevent sales of invasive species, pet stores still sell them, and it’s a cumbersome and lengthy process to try and get the federal government to act.

Gielens said the turtle project prefers to have municipalities ban sales and breeding of non-native turtles.

“What you’re wanting is the municipality to enforce it because the federal government won’t,” commented Coun. Jack Arnold.

Langley City opted instead to look at amending its business licence bylaw to say any new stores can’t sell turtles. Any existing businesses would be grandfathered.

The City contacted its only pet store, PetSmart, which said it does not sell turtles or turtle eggs.

The Lower Mainland is home to the western painted turtle which is threatened by non-native turtles purchased as pets. Gielens noted that red-eared slider turtles, native to the Florida area, are often sold as babies but they grow to be five or six pounds and are aggressive. They also carry salmonella, a key reason why the U.S. banned their sale.

“They are released often into our watersheds,” she explained.

These non-native species keep local turtles from thriving.

Invasive red-eared slider turtles have been found in Campbell Valley Regional Park and Aldergrove Regional Park, which also have western painted indigenous turtles.

“We have basically the only viable breeding population on the South Coast,” Gielens said.

The invasive turtles outnumber the locals by about 30:1 in Abbotsford’s Mill Lake.

“They live 40 to 50 years,” Gielens noted.

She added that researchers have found that the invasive red sliders have successfully bred in the wild, adding, “That could be a potential problem now.” 

Gielens noted that the three animal rescue centres that accept abandoned turtles are overwhelmed, and most turtles must be euthanized.

Her group removes non-native turtles when they are found, and is working to re-establish indigenous breeds. 

In cooperation with the Greater Vancouver Zoo, her group hatched about 100 babies last August.

“We are rearing wild native turtles… in captivity for release,” Gielens said.

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