Phoenix Zoo trapping turtles that don't belong in pond

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The Phoenix Zoo has been working to remove some turtles from that big pond under the main entrance bridge.

Crews are trapping turtles that don't belong there and trying to protect turtles native to the area.

So where do all those extra turtles come from?

Every year, it's estimated that hundreds of unwanted pet turtles are released into this Papago Park pond and other community lakes by their owners.

But biologists say that's not legal.

"A lot of times people will come and dump their pets or turtles that they don't want anymore," said Brett Montgomery with Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The unwanted turtles are removed because they're a danger to the native turtle species. There's also the problem of cross-breeding.

The first non-native species turtle trapping was held at the Phoenix Zoo in 1999. Since then, more than 970 individual turtles, representing 19 species, have been captured and nearly 580 have been removed.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Critter Corner]

In 2017, 22 turtles were caught during the trapping; 20 of those were red-eared sliders (pond sliders), a common household pet. Many of the smaller turtles had evidence of previous captivity, indicating they were most-likely intentionally released by their owners.

This year, after 72 hours of setting up traps, 117 total non-native turtles were removed (85 males and 32 females.) The turtles spanned four different species: pond sliders, spiny softshell, Western painted turtle and Florida red-belly. 

Turtles are live-trapped using fish as bait. The turtles are then measured, weighed, their sex determined, species verified and marked for identification.

All female non-native turtles will be placed with the Turtle and Tortoise Preservation Group to reduce population growth and keep from overcrowding.

This will help prevent non-native species from traveling to nearby waters where they could out-compete, spread disease to or prey on native turtles and other native aquatic wildlife.

Non-native male and all other native turtle species found at the pond will be returned to the water to continue to provide zoo visitors the unique opportunity to view them from the bridge upon arrival.

"Zoo attendees like to come and see the turtles and watch them swim around and bask in the sun," said Montgomery.

 Zoo officials say the non-native turtles will end up getting adopted out after they are caught.

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