Authorities discover non-native red-eared slider turtles in Wascana Lake

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Authorities in Saskatchewan, Canada along with researchers from University of Regina have discovered non-native red-eared slider turtles in Wascana lake and have urged people not to release their pets into the wild.

Experts and authorities have warned that non-native pets carry bacteria and diseases against which native species can’t defend against. Also, pet animals are not acquainted with the wild and they may not able to survive in Saskatchewan. Further, non-native species also lead to real ecological and conservation issues that authorities may have not accounted for in the first place.

“We’ve found evidence of multiple sliders in Wascana,” says U of R Biology student and researcher Kelsey Marchand who is part of a team conducting research into the Western Painted Turtle, which is native to Saskatchewan. “Released pets harbour bacteria and diseases that native turtles cannot defend themselves against. Also, pet turtles may not have what it takes to survive in Saskatchewan, so releasing them is actually cruel.”

Dr. Chris Somers, Associate Professor of Biology and one of the supervisors of the turtle project at Wascana Centre said that this is a pervasive issue and not many people realise that this is an important thing to keep in mind.

“Students co-supervised by myself and Dr. Ray Poulin (Research Scientist and Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum) picked up a Mexican black kingsnake near Estevan in June. Someone released their pet. Koi fish that were once pets are now established in Boundary Reservoir. Koi is an invasive species with the potential to alter the local ecosystem,” says Dr. Somers.

Dr. Somers isn’t alone in his concerns.

Chet Neufeld, chair of the Saskatchewan Invasive Species Council, a non-profit organization which receives support from the Provincial and Federal governments called this issue a rather humongous one as just a single species is capable of proliferating to the point that it will have noticeable detrimental effects on the province as a whole.

Neufeld points to the devastation in the Great Lakes system caused by the Zebra Mussel, which has now spread to Manitoba and South Dakota.

“Once Zebra Mussels get into the river system you have lost that river system,” says Neufeld.

Wascana Centre Authority has been monitoring the Carp population in Wascana Lake for the past two years as this is an invasive species.

Meanwhile, if you are a pet owner and can no longer look after your animal, Dr. Somers pleads: “Please don’t release your pet into the wild. Find it a new home with someone who can continue to provide proper care. If all else fails, consult with your veterinarian about humane options. I know people mean well, but the consequences of releasing pets can be dire.”