DNR: Don’t Buy Your Children Pet Turtles

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s a Hollywood fantasy that’s creating real life worries for wildlife experts.

Alex DeMetrick reports a new “Teenage Mutant Turtle” movie could bring turtle trouble.

It’s illegal to sell or buy small turtles but past “Ninja Turtle” movies have allegedly sparked such sales.

“You get something that draws attention to that specific animal and there’s a big spike in the sales and people want it,” said Cpl. Mike Lathroum, National Resources Police.

Until they don’t.

The baby turtles will obviously grow and as they do, they are frequently released into the wild.

“This turtle has the capacity to reproduce in the wild and take over wetland,” said Jonathan McKnight, Department of Natural Resources.

So in advance of the new movie, Maryland is promoting parents buy their kids “Ninja Turtle” toys, not real turtles—especially from street vendors who buy them from turtle farms in the south. Plus, turtles can carry salmonella.

“And if you don’t wash your hands or if you put the turtle in your mouth, the potential is there for the disease to be transmitted to humans,” Lathroum said.

Salmonella may be a threat to people but there’s also a major worry about disease spreading to native species like the Maryland Diamondback Terrapin.

“And we could actually lose species on a local level. We’re concerned ranavirus could get into our Maryland terrapins and our coastal population and it could have a dramatic effect on them,” McKnight said.

Besides being a risk to human and animal health, selling baby turtles can also bring a fine of up to $1,000.

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