2 held in illegal poaching of turtles
Mar. 21, 2009
Two local men are accused of illegally trapping snapping turtles
and selling them to a company that turned them into meat.
The charges were announced this week as part of a statewide
crackdown on the illegal poaching, smuggling and selling of
poisonous snakes, turtles and other reptiles and amphibians.
Seventeen men and one company were charged with crimes after a
two-year undercover investigation headed by the state Department of
"Is there a commercial threat to our critical wildlife species?
What [investigators] found was alarming," said Pete Grannis,
commissioner of the DEC. "A very lucrative illegal market does
exist, fostered by a strong, clandestine culture of people who want
to exploit wildlife for illegal profit." Kenneth R. Howard Jr., 53,
of Oakfield in Genesee County, and Michael J. Loveless, 58, of
Machias in Cattaraugus County, were charged with misdemeanor counts
of unlawful commercialization of wildlife, the DEC said.
"They were engaged in illegal trapping of snapping turtles," said
Capt. Michael Van Durme of the DEC. "Loveless sold turtles to
Howard, and Howard then sold them to a business in Maryland, which
processed them into meat . . . We believe Howard sold more than
5,000 pounds of turtles to this company each year." In a telephone
interview with The Buffalo News, Howard described himself as a
turtle and beaver trapper and said he sees nothing wrong with
trapping and selling turtles.
Howard said he did not know turtle-trapping was illegal. He said
he trapped turtles from the Alabama swamps and used a truck to take
about 150 to 175 turtles at a time to the Maryland seafood
Now, authorities are building a prosecution case against the
"For years, there were no restrictions on trapping turtles . . .
You make a few bucks, but it's a lot of work," Howard said. "Now,
[state officials] tell me there's a new law, and they claim I knew
all about it." Efforts to reach Loveless were unsuccessful Thursday.
Emanuele Tesoro, 42, of Waterdown, Ont., near Hamilton, is also
charged. He faces charges in Buffalo's federal court in connection
with the alleged illegal trading and sale of 36 Eastern Massasauga
rattlesnakes to an undercover DEC investigator in Niagara Falls.
"Our investigation concentrated on people who were actually doing
this for profit," said Richard Thomas, a DEC lieutenant who went
undercover in the case.
Grannis said the DEC investigation focused on people who were
stealing rattlesnakes, turtles and other protected species from the
wild and selling them for profit.
Why should government agencies protect poisonous snakes? "They do
play a valuable role in our ecology. They help control the rodent
population, and hawks feed off of baby snakes," Hudak said. "Snakes
do help keep nature in balance." Other agencies that worked on the
case included the U. S. attorney's office and the state attorney
general's office in Buffalo, the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service,
Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.