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Turtles flee farm in Chattooga County
SUMMERVILLE, Ga. — They may move slowly, but some 1,600 turtles have run off from a turtle farm outside Summerville.
Turtle grower David Driver called the Chattooga County Sheriff's Office last week to report fences made of metal barn siding had been torn down around his turtle ponds on Harrisburg Road.
"It's been going on all summer long," Driver said Wednesday.
The breaches in the ponds' perimeter have allowed turtles — all native species such as common snappers, Eastern paints and yellow-bellied sliders — to break free and make a beeline to nearby ponds and creeks.
Driver thinks vandals may be to blame.
"It was pranks, is what it was," he said Wednesday.
It's no laughing matter to him, though, since Driver has lost most of the nest of adult turtles he's trapped over the past four years.
"There was about 2,200 over there. We lost 1,600 of them," he said.
That's a blow to Driver's business, because he depends on the adults to lay eggs in the dirt around the fenced ponds that his family digs up to be hatched in a climate-controlled shed.
Once the baby turtles hatch, Driver sells some to pet-growing operations in Florida; others he air-freights to China, where they're destined for the dinner table.
"They raise the soft shell and the snappers just like we do chickens here," he said.
Each baby snapping turtle sold to China is worth $7 — down from $14 a year ago.
"This has been the worst year. The price has dropped," Driver said.
Snappers lay 25 to 70 eggs, but only once a year, he said. Other breeds might lay four times in a mild summer, Driver said.