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FL Press : Snapper sent to be stuffed

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Fri Aug 8 13:57:32 2008  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  

PENSACOLA NEWS JOURNAL (Florida) 08 August 08 Snapping turtle sent to be stuffed (Sean Dugas)
A 100-pound alligator snapping turtle whose fate stirred controversy among area residents has been sent to a taxidermist in Milton.
Gary Phillips, 30, whose younger brother Glen Phillips caught the animal he named "Goliath," confirmed Thursday that the alligator snapping turtle was delivered earlier this week.
Phillips said the taxidermist will save the meat for the Jay family. He defended his family's right to use the animal for food.
"We're from the woods, and we live off the land. A lot of people are making a big deal about this, but you've got to eat," Phillips said. "I wish people could understand how it is to live out here.
"There's not a Circle K or a McDonald's you can run to."
The turtle's capture sparked debate over whether the Jay family should free the turtle, keep it as a pet or consume it.
The uproar over Goliath's fate began after the News Journal published a story and photos of the turtle in Sunday's newspaper. In the following days, forums at were inundated with comments, and the paper fielded a number of phone calls from residents concerned about Goliath.
Stan Kirkland, spokesman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said his office received dozens of calls about Goliath.
"One caller offered to pay the family to release the turtle," he said. "The offer was $500, if they released it back into the river. No questions asked."
Florida law allows a family to keep one alligator snapping turtle. There is no state law that prevents the family from killing and eating the turtle.
"We had very passionate people call who felt sorry for the turtle and wanted it saved," Kirkland said. "We don't have authority to take the turtle because they took it legally. We did issue (the family) a warning (Tuesday) because they kept the turtle alive in an aluminum johnboat."
State law says the turtle's enclosure must be at least five times the length of the shell and two times the width of the shell to meet state requirements. The animal also must have a pool large enough to allow it to submerge.
Alligator snapping turtles became a federally listed species in 1978, but the animal is not endangered or threatened and their numbers are not declining, Kirkland said.
The species was put on the list to denote that there is not much known about the animal, he said.
Gary Phillips, who lives in Brewton, Ala., said it's no different from hunting deer or catching catfish. He also said that there isn't much wasted when a turtle is used for food. The only unused parts are the head and claws.
"A turtle that size would probably feed them a good while," Phillips said, speaking of his father, Jerry, and two younger brothers, who live at the family's Jay home. "You could eat on a turtle half that size all week and have some left."
Catching and eating turtles has been a Phillips family tradition for generations, he said.
"My granny used to catch and eat gopher tortoises to survive, but it's illegal now," Phillips said. "We usually just fry it up with flour, salt and pepper. And you can make gravy from the shell."
Melissa Harrill, 35, has lived in Milton for 30 years and said her husband also grew up eating turtle soup with his grandmother. But Harrill doubts that the Phillips needed to kill "Goliath" for food.
"If they were hungry, you'd think they could have found something else to eat," she said. "You can buy chicken that tastes better than turtle."

PENSACOLA NEWS JOURNAL (Florida) 07 August 08 Turtle's captors told to build cage - Family can't keep 'Goliath' in boat, state says (Adam Ziglar)
Photo at URL below: Glen Phillips, 15, shows off Goliath the alligator snapping turtle, which Glen and his family have kept in a boat filled with water in the yard of their Jay home. (Emily Garber)
The family who caught a 100-pound alligator snapping turtle and named it Goliath is in violation of state turtle caging requirements.
Last weekend, Jay residents Jerry Phillips and his son, Glen, caught a large turtle on the Escambia River. It has been kept in a shallow pool of water in a johnboat, which is a violation of the state's turtle caging requirement, officials say.
Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission visited the family on Tuesday and served a written warning about the caging requirement. They told the family they have two to three days to comply or they must release the turtle.
"Keeping a turtle in a boat is not adequate," said FWC spokesman Lt. Stan Kirkland. "That clearly didn't meet the rule for caging requirements."
According to state law, turtle enclosures must include a pool of water large enough to allow the turtle to submerge. The caged area must also be at least five times the length of the shell and two times the width of the shell. The pool can't be less than two times the width of the shell and two times the length.
Glen Phillips estimated that Goliath weighs about 100 pounds. Its body is 22 inches wide and 23 inches long. The turtle's head measures 8Ĺ inches long and it has a 22-inch tail, Glen said.
Kirkland said officers would return to the Phillips' residence, but he couldn't confirm when. If the caging requirements still haven't been met, officers could seize the turtle or choose to give them more time to comply, Kirkland said.
"In an officer's estimation, if they're making progress in meeting the caging requirements, the officer could certainly give them more latitude," he said.
Jerry Phillips could not be reached Wednesday.
Phillips, 53, told a reporter Monday that he planned to keep the turtle. Phillips' son, Glen, said the family may eat it.
Under Florida law, residents are allowed to have one alligator snapping turtle, Kirkland said. Kirkland also spoke to the family on Tuesday.
"They didn't indicate what they were going to do with the turtle," he said.
The catch has upset many who say the turtle should be set free.
The FWC received nearly two dozen calls from area residents at its offices in Panama City and Pensacola, Kirkland said.
Someone even complained about the turtle's capture on Craigslist, a online community with job listings, want ads and message boards.
Navarre resident and nature photographer Kenny Wilder said the turtle, because of its size, should be released.
"It would be nice for the father and son to let this one go back," he said. "Since it's so big, just give it some freedom."
Phillips' plans are not clear.
"They said they had seen some of the nasty things on the Internet about the turtle's treatment, and their family," said FWC biologist John Himes. "They had made a decision about what to do but wouldn't tell the officers."


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