WEATHERSFIELD, Vt. (AP) – Wildlife wardens have seized nearly 100 turtles, newts and salamanders after receiving a tip that the creatures were being advertised for sale on the Internet.

The “turtle and salamander bust” that found endangered spotted turtles at an undisclosed residence Tuesday was possibly the first of its kind in state history, officials said.

Lt. Dane Hathaway, game warden district chief for southern Vermont, said the wardens along with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife special agent and local police officers served the search warrant.

Hathaway said the animals seized in the investigation are in the care of state biologists in St. Johnsbury and appear to be healthy. It is not yet known if arrests will be made or charges filed, he added.

“We’ve got a lot more research and investigation to do,” he said. “It’s a long-term investigation.”

The officers found 19 turtles and 68 black newts, many of which are native to the area, in an outside fenced area near the residence. Four spotted salamanders, also native to Vermont, were found as well.

“We protect all of the wildlife in the state, but mostly we deal with game animals,” Hathaway said. “This is a new market, and this is the first time we’ve come across this.”

State and federal charges of illegally importing and possessing live reptiles and amphibians could eventually be filed against the person whose name was not released, Hathaway said.

“The spotted turtle is an endangered species, and if they’ve been transported across state lines, that’s a federal violation,” he said. “It’s illegal to posses live wild animals in this state without the proper permits and licenses from the (Fish and Wildlife) department.”

AP-ES-05-22-03 1425EDT



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