The head of a Richmond reptile rescue organization wants the City of Burnaby or the provincial government to ban the sale of pet turtles.
"We'd like to see the government ban them completely - for sale, for breeding, for importing," said Val Lofvendahl from Reptile Rescue, Adoption and Education Society.
Lofvendahl's comments came after last week's snakehead capture at Burnaby's Central Park that left the lower pond's red-eared sliders in potential peril.
While the provincial government was trying to catch the invasive snakehead, Lofvendahl was worrying about the pond's turtles, most of which are red-eared sliders, an invasive species indigenous to the United States and sold for pets.
The Environment Ministry had initially said non-native species in the pond would be euthanized, including the turtles. But in the end, staff left the red-eared sliders alone.
"The government staff were just going to leave the turtles. They weren't going to bother pulling them," Lofvendahl said. "They were free to stay and live in the pond."
Lofvendahl rescued one turtle that came out of the pond on her own.
She will be up for adoption once she stabilizes.
The pond's turtle population highlights the "huge" problem of dumped pets, according to Lofvendahl.
"Turtles in particular, they are toonie size when you buy them in the pet store. ... The pet stores don't educate anybody and let them know they live 40 years and can get as big as a dinner plate," Lofvendahl said.
"There are way too many (stores) out there that are selling them," said Lofvendahl. "Burnaby is one of the worst cities in terms of bylaws. One store I know of sells the red-eared sliders like they are going out of style, and they are also selling the snakehead fish and other invasive fish."
According to Lofvendahl, Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey and Delta already have bylaws against selling turtles as pets.
People call Reptile Rescue, saying their turtle has outgrown its tank, wanting to get rid of it, or they end up dumping the turtles in lakes, ponds and ditches, according to Lofvendahl.
"It's illegal to dump them, and it's cruel," Lofvendahl said. "Try to find them a better home, rather than dumping them in public waterways."
Lofvendahl said the dumped pet turtles can develop health problems because the local climate is a lot colder than their native habitat. People should post online classified ads to find a home for unwanted turtles, rather than dumping them outdoors, she added.
Hilary Wilson of HomeFinders Animal Rescue Society has been at the pond rescuing turtles. Her plan is to get them into temporary homes until they can be checked by vets and placed in permanent homes.
Wilson estimated there are 23 turtles: 21 red-eared sliders and two Mississippi map turtles, all of which are invasive species and very likely dumped pets.
City of Burnaby councillor Dan Johnston said he would be interested in considering a local ban on the sale of pet turtles.
"I would be prepared to look at it. It's an issue. Some of the turtles in Deer Lake have come from various donors in the past. - My sense is it's time to look at it," he said. "I don't totally understand anybody that would be that irresponsible and dump in (a turtle) in the lake."