LACEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) – Animal welfare authorities are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for dumping a group of soft-shell turtles by the roadside in northern New Jersey.
The animals, which are from the south and cannot survive in the northeast climate, were spotted by a motorist along the Passaic River on Thursday. A woman stopped her car when she saw a flock of seagulls attacking them, shooed them away, and called for help.
Four of the 10 turtles had frozen to death; the remaining six were taken to an animal shelter and are recovering from wounds they suffered in the bird attack.
John Bergmann, general manager of Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey Township, said the animals are native to Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
“They definitely would not survive in our climate,” he said. “That is why we believe all 10 turtles were dumped here.”
It is illegal in New Jersey to own turtles as pets without a permit.
Soft-shell turtles actually do have a shell, called a carapace, that is not as hard as those on other turtles. That makes them more vulnerable to injury and susceptible to cold weather.
They are round, with a long, slender nose. Females can grow to 24 inches long, while males grow to half that size.
They are extremely shy around people and will snap when threatened, Bergmann said.
Popcorn Park Zoo, which cares for injured and abandoned animals, is looking for a facility or individual wildlife rehabilitator in the south that can adequately care for the turtles.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)