A turtle wandering the streets of Burnaby on June 23 was handed over to the B.C. SPCA, but a quick inspection revealed that the shelled reptile was not a regular pet turtle.
"This amazing animal is a North American wood turtle, endangered species CITES Appendix II," said veterinarian Dr. Adrian Walton.
The wood turtle is facing imminent extinction in Ontario, where the government has put in place strategies to keep the species alive.
Its under threat from habitat loss, from other animals, road mortality and from people illegally collecting them as pets.
Wildlife rescuers suspect that someone got sick of taking care of the turtle and dumped it in a nearby lake or that it somehow managed to escape.
Watch as the endangered turtle tries to make a run for it:
"Whoever had this animal had no clue, zero clue on how you take care of a turtle," said Walton, a veterinarian at Dewdney Animal Hospital in Maple Ridge, B.C.
"The shell is consistent with metabolic bone disease and too much protein," he said, adding the turtle also didn't get enough sunlight.
Walton said it's common for people to get tired of taking care of turtles.
"They are horrible pets. Never, ever, ever, ever give your child a pet turtle. They live for 20, 30, 40 years and they get to be the size of a dinner plate," he said.
Forced to euthanize
Walton said he is often forced to euthanize many of the turtles that come through their door, because they can't find anyone to take care of a grown turtle.
However, since this turtle is endangered, it is being sent to a wildlife sanctuary in Barrie, Ontario.
As for dumping unwanted reptiles in the lakes, Walton strongly advises against that.
"They're often dumped in waterways, where they freeze to death," said Walton.
"Or if they do survive, they do significant amount of damage to our wildlife. Including eating baby ducklings, destroying the nests of coastal painted turtles, which are an endangered species here," he said.
Walton asks people to think twice before getting a turtle as a pet.
If people do want to get rid of their pets, he encourages them to give them to the BC SPCA instead of dumping them in waterways.