The Iowa Senate has agreed with the House to create new protections for Iowa’s wild turtle population.
“It’s a real step forward to pass this and protect our native turtles,” said Senator Dick Dearden, an avid hunter.
A quarter of a century ago, an estimated 30,000 pounds of turtles were caught in Iowa by commercial and recreational trappers. Officials estimate the yearly turtle harvest has increased 70 percent in Iowa since then, to nearly a quarter of a million pounds.
If the governor signs the bill into law, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will establish a hunting season for four species of wild turtles and set limits on the number of turtles that can be trapped.
“Some people say, ‘Why?’ Well, they can be trapped out in a hurry,” Dearden said.
That’s because trappers today in Iowa are able to catch turtles during their nesting season. Dearden said turtles “do everything slow” and that’s why protection as they reproduce is important.
“A turtle from the time it hatches out of the egg until it becomes a breeding age — it’s seven years,” Dearden said. “So it takes forever for them to reproduce.”
Iowa is among the few states which have had no limits on turtle harvesting. Turtles from America have become a hot commodity in Asia. According to a report from the Turtle Conservation Coalition, 75 percent of Asia’s turtle and tortoise species are threatened as a result of overharvesting.