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Slow and steady determination pays off in Wildlife saga

One of our new regular community contributors, Alex Scholp has written for the Dayton Association of Financial Advisors’ monthly newsletter for more than 25 years. He lives in Spring Valley.

Ever since I found a turtle when I was 7 years old, I have had a fascination with turtles. Thirty years later, after rescuing a turtle by the berm of the road, that fascination with turtles was rekindled. My oldest son, Chris, and I decided to raise turtles.

Several years went by and the Division of Wildlife passed new laws stating a permit must be purchased with a check for $25 for anyone owning turtles. This was in 1999. If one does not have a permit, one could be fined $250 and all the turtles could be confiscated. I completed an application and sent in a check for $25. A few weeks later a wildlife officer in uniform came to my door and wanted to see the turtles. The officer seemed satisfied, and a week later my application was approved. This was a procedure that went on annually for 12 years.

In 2013, a wildlife officer came, asking me questions about where I got my turtles, which now numbered over 100. I told him I raised most of them. The following week he returned with more questions. He asked if I PIT tagged all of them. (A PIT tag is a $10 chip that is embedded in the turtle’s leg.) After 12plus years of being left alone, I found this conversation threatening towards my freedom to do as I please at my home, and an attack on my personal property.

One week later I received a letter from his newly appointed supervisor, stating I had 30 days to tag my turtles or else I could be fined $250 for not having my permit approved, and $250 for each turtle not tagged, and each charge would be a misdemeanor of the 4th degree.

A friend of mine with a law degree called the supervisor in Xenia and was told they were enforcing the law. I contacted my state representative Bob Hackett, who made some phone calls only to find I did not have any legal leverage against these demands. I decided to buy 20 tags for $200, and had Dr. Dan Brauer tag 20 native turtles. I then released all the other turtles native to Ohio rather than tag them.

Months later I was at a meeting where I just happened to sit next to the Director of Commerce of the state of Ohio. He turned out to be a very caring man who just happened to report directly to Governor Kasich. He said he would rather see if he could help me. The next day I received a phone call from two officers with the Division of Wildlife in Columbus. They were interested in rectifying my concerns with the wildlife department over tagging my turtles.

One week after this phone conversation, the ranger in Xenia called me and asked if he and his two supervisors could make an appointment to see my set-up. They were blown away with the size and arrangement of my turtle facility. I told them it was better than the turtle exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. They agree.

On March 9 I received a letter by certified mail informing me that by tagging 20 native turtles, and having log books documenting all the dates of birth, deaths and transfers of my turtles, I have resolved the past issues of PIT tagging and I was compliant with Ohio’s reptile regulations. Our 2-year confrontation is over. Thanks to all who helped me.