Snapping turtle-takers face new state scrutiny

Trying to keep snapping turtles, common in many lakes and ponds, from becoming rare, the state has enacted its first-ever restrictions on those who trap them.

On Tuesday, the legislature's Regulation Review Committee approved new hunting regulations for wild snapping turtles, which are highly sought-after for Asian food markets in this country and abroad, according to Mark Clavette of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

"It's a huge market, and one that's quickly exploding," said Clavette, wildlife biologist at DEEP. "More and more states have been enacting regulations."

Under the new regulations, hunters are limited to taking no more than five snapping turtles per day, and up to 30 per season, which is from July 15 to Sept. 30. Before the new regulations were enacted, he said, "there were no restrictions whatsoever, on how many you could take, the size, taking the eggs."

Those who want to trap snapping turtles will now have to obtain a free "snapping turtle endorsement" certificate through DEEP's online hunting license form or retail outlet that sells hunting licenses.

"This establishes a formula for long-term protection," he said. The new regulations, he said, were designed to allow traditional hunters who trap turtles for personal consumption to continue that activity.

Snapping turtles, he said, are the only native wild species that can be sold commercially.

Typically, commercial hunters trap them live in hoop- or cage-style traps for live sale at markets in this country and in China, he said. Some are sent to processing facilities.

In addition to the snapping turtle regulations, the state also banned the taking of spotted turtles, another native species. This is in response to a growing market for spotted turtles in the pet trade, he said.

j.benson@theday.com

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