WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A West Warwick man was slapped with a $1,600 fine after more than a dozen turtle hatchlings were found inside his home, according to the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM).
The DEM launched an investigation after learning the man was illegally advertising the hatchlings for sale on Craigslist and Facebook.
Throughout the week-long investigation, the DEM said the man sold two of the hatchlings to undercover officers and indicated he had 16 others in his online advertisements.
The DEM has since removed the hatchlings from his home and brought them to the Roger Williams Park Zoo, which has a room dedicated to caring for rescued turtles.
The hatchlings are Eastern Musk turtles, which the DEM said are native to the state, and will eventually be released back into the wild.
“Removing wildlife from its natural habitat to keep as a pet isn’t just illegal – it can have major impacts on Rhode Island’s native ecosystems,” the DEM said in a statement. “Biologically, turtles are especially vulnerable to over-collection. Some species must reproduce for their entire lives to ensure just one hatchling survives to adulthood.”
“It takes years, sometimes decades, for turtles to reach reproductive age, if they make it at all,” the statement continued. “Most fall victim to predators before they mature. Rhode Island’s turtles are also threatened by habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and car strikes when crossing roads.”
The man has been charged with 16 counts of possession of a protected reptile or amphibian without a permit and fined $100 for each turtle.