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B.C. woman fined $350 for keeping rare, wild turtle as pet

A threatened turtle was seized by conservation officers after two people tried to sell it online. (BCCOS/Facebook) A threatened turtle was seized by conservation officers after two people tried to sell it online. (BCCOS/Facebook)

A Kelowna woman has been fined $350 for keeping a wild turtle as a pet.

Monica Skublen pleaded guilty last week to unlawful possession of live wildlife under the provincial Wildlife Act, according to a statement from the BC Conservation Officer Service.

The charge stemmed from a report to the service's Report All Poachers and Polluters hotline in April 2022. The caller reported seeing the Western Painted Turtle advertised for sale online. 

According to Castanet News, the ad was placed in that outlet's classifieds section, and read "Michelangelo – Aquatic turtle for sale to good home." The asking price was $250. 

Castanet reports that a conservation officer went "undercover," posing as a buyer for the turtle and arranging to meet up in the parking lot of a local PetSmart to conduct the exchange.

That meeting turned out to be a sting, according to Castanet. After the undercover officer paid $200 for the turtle, two other officers approached Skublen and her husband and told them they were under arrest.

The turtle was taken to BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops, where it remains, the conservation officer service said.

Other charges against the Skublens were stayed, according to the BCCOS, which says the couple had been keeping the turtle as a pet for approximately nine years.

"In various parts of B.C., the Western Painted Turtle – the only native freshwater turtle in the province – is considered a threatened species, or species of concern, meaning its removal from the wild can have a devastating impact on the population," the service said in its statement.

"Every year, the COS encounters people who have taken wildlife home. These actions often end with the animal not being able to be released back into the wild. Taking an animal from the wild can result in it having an unnatural life in captivity, or the animal may be accidentally killed by the action."

Crown prosecutors sought a $500 fine in the case, noting Skublen's early guilty plea, according to Castanet.

The maximum penalty for possession of wildlife, under the Wildlife Act, is $100,000 and up to a year in prison for a first offence.

Castanet reports that the defence in the case asked for a fine "as low as possible" because Skublen loved the turtle and took good care of it. The defence also argued that she was not aware the turtle was "at risk."

The judge ultimately settled on a fine of $350.

"The illegal pet trade is unfortunately not uncommon," said conservation officer Ken Owens, in the statement.

"We hope this sends a message to the public that even if you have the best of intentions – such as people who try and 'rescue' deer fawns – your actions may lead to the captivity or death of the animal. It is illegal to keep any kind of wildlife as a pet. We’d also like to thank the public for their prompt reporting." Top Stories


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