Poachers poached! Turtle-nappers nabbed in Prospect Park, reptiles rescued

Unpoached!: A group of women tried to steal these 27 turtles out of a Prospect Park lake last week, but were stopped by park watch-turtles.
Wild for Prospect Park

It’s a snapper keeper!

A good Samaritan rescued more than two dozen turtles from poachers who were snatching the reptiles out of a Prospect Park lake on May 3, saving the lives of the animals that had been bagged up and prepared for delivery to who knows what.

The savior spotted a group of five women “luring” the turtles out of the water near Park Circle on the Parkside Avenue side of the lake and stepped in to stop them, members of the animal advocacy group Wild for Prospect Park’s reported on their Facebook page, calling the cops, who slapped one of the women with a $1,000 fine for her crime against reptiles.

Four other women fled, according to the website Bklyner, which first reported the story.

It is illegal to kill or harm animals in the park, according to parks spokeswoman Maeri Ferguson (well, illegal unless you are a federal agent called on to slaughter geese).

The women had bagged 27 of the creatures — including red-eared sliders, painted turtles, and box turtles, which officials later released into the lake, where they paddled off to safety, said the green space rep.

Ferguson didn’t know what the hunters had planned for the turtles, but all three species are popular as pets and can also be used in a variety of dishes including turtle soup, deep fried turtle nuggets, turtle stew, and turtle etouffe, making chelonian advocates even more thankful for their liberation.

“We are beyond grateful to park staff, [park] officers and NYPD for their quick response in saving these turtles,” said Mary Beth Artz, who is a member of Wild for Prospect Park.

But not everyone may have escaped the ladies’ clutches — a domestic duck looked after by animal supporters who had been dumped into the lake was missing around the same time as the incident, and Wild for Prospect Park fears that it may have been taken by the turtle thieves.

The Parks Department isn’t aware of any past poaching in meadows, but Artz said she has come across people trying to take turtles out of the water during her community group’s monthly lakeside cleanups and called authorities.

The animal-loving group hopes the episode will help raise awareness of poaching in parks that will put a stop to the practice once and for all.

“We are hoping this incident results in more visible enforcement in the park which will help put an end to these illegal activities,” read the Wild for Prospect Park post.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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