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Captured! Snapping Turtles Blamed for Scaring Off Lagoon's Birds Nabbed

By Benjamin Woodard | August 28, 2014 8:55am
 The former residents of Indian Boundary Park's lagoon are being moved to Marquette Park.
Snapping Turtles Captured!
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WEST ROGERS PARK — Three snapping turtles accused of terrorizing waterfowl at Indian Boundary Park's lagoon were caught, caged and trucked away Thursday morning to Marquette Park, where they'll be released.

Experts hired by the Chicago Park District set up a mesh-net trap on Wednesday. Less than 24 hours later, the snappers were stuck inside.

Ben Woodard explains why the turtles had to go:

About 7:30 a.m. Thursday, the workers carefully lifted the cage out of the lagoon's waters and emptied its contents into a blue plastic bin.

"Oh boy, that's a big turtle!" said onlooker Tim Murtaugh, who's lived in the neighborhood for more than 70 years.

A worker said the reptiles were headed to their new home on the South Side.

Residents in the area had accused the turtles of scaring away waterfowl, such as mallards and great blue herons that had frequented the lagoon.

Murtaugh said he remembered seeing turtles in the lagoon as a kid, but understood how they could spook birds.

"Unfortunately, that's a small area, so they get an unfair advantage," he said.

Resident Kristen McCartney, 33, said she was disturbed by the way the turtles were removed from the lagoon and questioned whether they had anything to do with the lack of birds there.

"I certainly would never deny that turtles are predators," she said. "What's concerned me is that they were there last year — and the ducks were there last year. They did eat a few ducklings, but most of the ducklings survived."

She said the brutal winter and chilly spring could have influenced the birds' behavior.

"It's a huge oversimplification that the turtles" were to blame, she said.

McCartney said she would often see the largest turtle — which she affectionately calls a "big, obese hubcap of a turtle" — swimming in the lagoon.

She said she was also upset that the turtles were all forced into one net.

On Thursday, abrasions could be seen on the smallest turtle's shell and head, while the two bigger ones snapped at it and each other.

"I think they could have been taken out of the pond with a lot less distress and pain," she said.

The Park District said Thursday morning that the net trap was a common method for catching snapping turtles.

"No turtles were harmed in the relocation," said Zvezdana Kubat, a Park District spokeswoman. "Our goal in removing them was to minimize harm to the snapping turtles and provide them with a more suitable habitat in a much larger lagoon." 

She said the Indian Boundary Park lagoon was about one acre in size, while Marquette Park lagoon is more than 40 acres.

Earlier in the week, Kubat said moving the turtles would "preserve the attractiveness of the lagoon to birds."

Chris Young, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, also said earlier this week that snapping turtles were common throughout the state.

Although he was unable to speak directly about the situation at the lagoon, he said the turtles could sometimes be wrongly blamed for declines in waterfowl populations, according to the agency's biologists.

"Snapping turtles oftentimes get the blame for ducks disappearing from ponds," he said, "but there are a lot of other nocturnal" predators that could be involved.

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