June 27, 2017 6:28 pm
Updated: June 27, 2017 7:36 pm

Malicious or accidental? Painted turtles found dead in the Lethbridge river valley

WATCH: There’s confusion around what killed four painted turtles in Lethbridge, with one wildlife enthusiast and researcher calling on the city to change its policy on mowing grass, and the city saying the mowers aren’t responsible. Quinn Campbell reports.

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A disturbing image of a dead and shattered painted turtle at the Elizabeth Hall Wetlands preservation area quickly gained traction on social media.

Ryan Heavy Head is an ecological consultant and found out about the turtle through a park user, “I found a message on the Rattle Snakes of Lethbridge Facebook page from a resident who’s a nature lover, who found four turtles out here at the wetlands, their shells had been broken up and they were deceased.”

At first glance, he thought the attack was deliberate.

READ MORE: Ecologists try to save western painted turtles in B.C.

“All I received was a close up image of the one turtle, it looked to me like a malicious act but then I had a friend come out here and look at this scenario, he immediately surmised that the mowers had hit the turtle. He could only find the one turtle not the four that were reported but the one that he saw was laying right in the path of the mower.”

 


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No one from the city parks department was available for comment, but officials did confirm the grass was cut in the area Friday.

The city posted this statement to social media:

We have had a chance to talk to many people and departments to find out more about the turtles found dead at Elizabeth Hall Wetlands.  From the Nature Centre staff, to Parks Department staff and others in between, we promise you that we love the turtles as much as our residents work extremely hard to protect them through conservation, education and preserving our natural areas such as Elizabeth Hall Wetlands.

One of our Nature Centre employees located one of the dead turtles this morning and after careful examination, she believes that these turtles were killed by humans and not city mowers.

For those wondering why we mow the shoulders of the path, it is for safety reasons for residents, allowing park users to step off to the side to allow others to pass or to know if there are animals like snakes or skunks on the sides of the pathways so they are able to react accordingly.  Our mowers and all Parks staff are very diligent and work hard to not injure our wetland wildlife in the process — they too love the turtles.

We understand that these turtles being killed is upsetting.  It is upsetting to the City of Lethbridge as well.  If at any time residents who saw these dead turtles would like to talk to someone at the City of Lethbridge, they are encouraged to call Public Operations at 403-320-3850.

Heavy Head disagrees and said mowing in the area is an issue he has brought forward to the city in the past.

“The mowing is normally done here by the city in the middle to the end of June and almost every year we find some kind of wildlife casualty.”

READ MORE: Wildlife crossings reduce costs and improve safety: study

Heavy Head said this time of year the turtles are even more vulnerable as they leave the water to create nests and lay eggs, often in the long grass.

Heavy Head also told Global News he did not contact Fish and Wildlife.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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