Over 25 alligator snapping turtles were released back into the East Texas wild after they were seized in an illegal trafficking attempt in 2016, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
TPWD officials said 21 adult and six juvenile turtles were released after they were seized from the Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery in Louisiana.
Three men pled guilty to conspiring to traffic the turtles in 2017 after Texas game wardens found they were catching the turtles in Texas and transporting them to Louisiana for purchase, TPWD officials said.
According to The Department of Justice, alligator snapping turtles are considered threatened under the extinction status of Texas law.
“Alligator snapping turtles have been protected in Texas since the 1970′s,” said Meredith Longoria, Deputy Director of the TPWD Wildlife Division. “We have a unique opportunity to not only return these turtles to their range in Texas from which they were taken, but also to learn more about their habits and their biology so that we can more effectively conserve Texas populations to ensure their viability for generations to come.”
The turtles are also protected under Louisiana State law and are considered a popular food item in the state, TPWD officials said.
TPWD officials said the popularity for the turtles has led to a smaller population in Louisiana and due to poaching in Texas.