Animal attraction! Now someone is trying to poach turtles in Prospect Park

Cops nab bizarre Prospect Park poachers
Community Newspaper Group / Stephen Brown

Turtles better hide in their shells — it appears someone is poaching the precious creatures from the lake in Prospect Park!

Two regular parkgoers, Anne-Katrin Titze and Ed Bahlman, discovered the shocking trap in the water last Tuesday while cleaning the area around the nest of one of their beloved swans.

The trap, which is slightly bigger than a shoebox, had a long line tethered to it, which was secured under a fallen tree. Titze snared the line with a stick after noticing that Sedna, a mother swan, was nibbling at some odd debris — turned out to be a shirt — near the bank of the lake.

“It was like she wanted us to clean up,” said Bahlman, explaining how they stumbled upon the shocking find.

Bahlman and Titze even said they found another trap the day before.

But park officials were hesitant to declare the traps a clear sign of poaching.

“I can’t say [if that is] a turtle trap or what kind of trap it is or what animals someone was trying to trap with it,” said Eugene Patron, a spokesman for the Prospect Park Alliance, who was shown a photograph of the apparent trap. But regardless, he added, “Trapping or capturing of wildlife is absolutely prohibited.”

It is hard to imagine what other purpose the trap could have served. The basket is not meant to capture fish, and the area where it was found is preferred among turtles, which bask on the many fallen trees on the edge of the lake.

“It’s clearly not a fish trap, because no fish could get caught in it,” said Max Gaspeny, a lifelong fisherman familiar with Prospect Park. “A turtle was not blessed with the grace of a fish, so it wouldn’t be able to get out of there quickly — it’s a crude trap, but I can’t imagine what else [someone] would be going after with that thing.”

Gaspeny added that it’s not uncommon for people to eat the meat of turtles and or use the shells as decorations.

The latest discovery only reinforced Bahlman and Titze’s concerns about the safety of the lake for the diverse wildlife that call it home.

Last week, a cygnet met its demise after it became entangled in fishing line. Sedna was wrapped and up and wounded by a stray hook and line as well.

Subsequent reports revealed that the swans’ violent nature was rearing its feathered head again, as a cygnet mets its demise after running afowl of Jaws — a swan notorious for his short fuse.

And it was only in December that a careless fisherman was considered the likely culprit for the plight of “Beaky,” the deformed goose missing the top half of its beak.

The dog advocacy group, FIDO, has donated four fishing line recycling bins that are being installed around the lake — a measure that should help prevent wildlife entanglements.

The discovery of the turtle trap is just the latest bizarre happening in Prospect Park so far this year — a year that has seen wounded ducks, the dumping of animal parts, the spilling of blood, and the death of beloved swan, John Boy, in an alleged act of swan-on-swan violence.