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Niagara County teens likely to face charges in torture of snapping turtle

The Niagara County SPCA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation expect to press misdemeanor charges against several teens who are suspected of torturing and killing a large snapping turtle with a pitchfork and a baseball bat last month.

Three teenage boys have been questioned and a fourth, who is believed to have repeatedly struck the turtle with a bat, is being sought.

Amy Lewis, director of the SPCA, said the incident happened at a party on June 6 on Royalton Center Road in Wolcottsville.

“It was a pretty large turtle, larger than a basketball,” Lewis said. “What we are concerned about is the actual cruelty aspect of the case.”

Lewis said a couple of the teens stabbed the turtle with pitchforks and one was “smacking it with a baseball bat for a good 30 seconds.”

The turtle was killed after it was stabbed a final time with a frogging fork and ultimately thrown into the fire.

Following an investigation, three of the four boys, who are between 15 to 17, were questioned by the SPCA and admitted they had stabbed the turtle and thrown it into the fire, Lewis said.

“We are still looking for the guy who was wielding the baseball bat,” said Lewis.

She said the torture of the turtle came to light after someone took a video of the attack and posted it on Facebook. The video, which showed the teens laughing and swearing as they took turns attacking the turtle, has since been removed, but someone shared the video with the Erie County SPCA, which then turned it over to Niagara County.

“We have a copy of the video,” Lewis said.

She added, “We generally don’t see a lot of complaints about wildlife, it’s mostly companion animals, but we would get involved in a case like this. It is not a felony charge like the companion animals case, but it is a misdemeanor.”

The DEC was brought in because the turtle was taken out of season and inappropriate implements were used for hunting wildlife. The turtle had reportedly been picked up on Cedar Road in Newstead and brought to the party.

According to the DEC, wildlife, including snapping turtles, are protected in New York State under state Environmental Conservation Law. The DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement is investigating the case along with the SPCA.

Lewis said her agency is leading the investigation and has questioned the young men. She said they plan to file misdemeanor animal cruelty charges.