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Sierra Daily

Sep 21, 2011

Petitioners Aim at Snapperfest

Snapping turtle For more than a decade, Indiana’s Campshore Campground has hosted Snapperfest, an event that invites contestants to violently grapple with snapping turtles. Now, groups are petitioning to stop what they cite as “ritual abuse of turtles.” You can find petitions here and here.

The late August shindig drew an explosion of attention from activists and media, and videos of the “festivities” abound on YouTube. In one scene, a bare-chested man in overalls pins a turtle to the ground, pries its neck from its shell, and jostles the animal in the air while eager onlookers snap photos. Another shows teenage boys pumping their fists and shouting with florid faces as the turtle wrangler thrusts his diminutive opponent skyward like a Heisman trophy.

Chris Probst, co-owner of the campground, is confident that Snapperfest is harmless and legal. He told Indiana’s Eagle County Radio that contestants “do not kill turtles” and that “you can’t pull the head off a turtle.”

But experts disagree. Kate Siena of Kawartha Turtle Trauma Center says, “Snapping turtles can sustain severe spinal injuries from being picked up by the tail. These injuries would remain unnoticed by the participants of the event and these seemingly ‘healthy’ turtles would then be released back in to the water to eventually succumb to their injuries.”

There's also the issue of what kinds of values Snapperfest is imparting on local youth. “The event no doubt teaches attending children and the wider community that handling wildlife is nothing but a brutal and frivolous game, with no regard to the suffering endured by these animals,” said Anne Sterling, Indiana State Director of the Humane Society of the United States.

Campshore Campground refused to comment when we contacted them for an interview.

--Jake Abrahamson

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