Case of the missing turtle

UPDATE 10 a.m.

Justin DeMerchant who runs an Okanagan turtle adoption program wants people to know the turtle he removed from Kasugui Gardens and euthanized was not healthy.

"People get upset that I put down turtles but the point of my turtle adoption program is so that people don't have to release them into the wild," says DeMerchant. "It's actually very cruel to release them into the lake.

"I actually feel really bad about it but it would have been worse to leave it. That turtle was suffering and chances are it wasn't going to live much longer than that anyway."

Kelowna City Parks Manager Blair Stewart tells Castanet he's worried people will get the idea that they can just go ahead and remove wildlife without following proper protocols.

"If people think they see an invasive species of turtle, they should contact the Conservation Officers to investigate," Stewart said. "The fact this happened is unfortunate, but The City of Kelowna doesn’t manage wildlife."

ORIGINAL 5:00 a.m.

The case of the turtle that disappeared from Kasugai Gardens in downtown Kelowna has been solved.

"That was me who caught that turtle," Justin DeMerchant tells Castanet. 

The turtle in question was euthanized shortly after being caught. "You are allowed to remove them from the wild, but they must be euthanized within 24 hours of being caught," says DeMerchant.

Red-eared sliders are the most popular pet turtle breed, but are not native to the Okanagan. Somehow, one of them found its way into Kasugai Gardens and frequent visitors became attached to the turtle.

"I didn't know much about this turtle until it was reported to me that it was missing," City of Kelowna parks services manager Blair Stewart says. 

One gentleman in particular, reached out to city council to enquire about the turtle's whereabouts and was not satisfied with the response. He reached out to Castanet for help clarifying the situation.

"The fact this happened is unfortunate, but we don't have a lot to do with it," says Stewart.

DeMerchant runs an Okanagan turtle adoption program and monitors 100 different lakes, ponds and wetlands in the Okanagan. "These red-eared sliders are invasive and actually carry diseases that can harm our native painted turtles," he says.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service is aware of the situation, he adds. "It's against the law to release red-eared sliders into the wild."

DeMerchant believes someone likely released a pet turtle into the pond, and it went feral.

It is perfectly legal to own a red-eared slider as a pet – but you are not allowed to re-home wild-caught turtles.

"I've never had any troubles in the past dealing with red-eared sliders, but because it was living in Kasugai Gardens, I guess there are a few people who are upset about it," says DeMerchant.

The turtle was caught and killed on July 27.

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