|Harrisburg, PA – A Bucks County reptile breeder and dealer has pleaded guilty to charges by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) that he illegally bought and traded native spotted turtles.
Michael J. Lang, 42, pleaded guilty to the charges on March 11 in a Montgomery County Magisterial District Court, following a four-month undercover investigation late last year by a PFBC waterways conservation officer.
“Spotted turtles are native to Pennsylvania and are highly sought after in the pet trade, which makes wild populations vulnerable to over collection,” said Jeff Bridi, assistant director of the PFBC’s Bureau of Law Enforcement. “To prevent over collection, Pennsylvania law prohibits the selling, purchasing or bartering of native reptiles and amphibians.”
Lang regularly sells reptiles at trade shows in Pennsylvania under the name Philadelphia Bearded Dragons. Bearded dragons are a lizard species native to Australia and are popular pets. In July 2010, Lang posted advertisements on the Philadelphia Craigslist website offering to trade baby bearded dragons for spotted turtles. During the course of the investigation, Lang traded for and purchased spotted turtles from the undercover PFBC investigator.
A search warrant served at Lang’s residence in December 2010 resulted in the seizure of 13 spotted turtles and five Eastern box turtles and uncovered evidence of an unpermitted reptile breeding operation. In total Lang pled guilty to two counts involving the purchase or trade of native reptiles; two counts of possession of over limit of spotted and Eastern box turtles; one count of artificially propagating and dealing in reptiles or amphibians without registering with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture; and one count of artificially propagating spotted turtles, a species not approved by the PFBC for captive breeding.
Lang was fined approximately $1,100 and was ordered to pay restitution to the PFBC for costs resulting from the care of the animals seized or acquired during the investigation. Six of the spotted turtles were loaned to the PFBC by the N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation and have been returned. The remaining turtles will be sent to educational facilities, such as colleges, high schools or wildlife conservancies.
The Fish and Boat Commission received assistance in this investigation from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation.
The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities. For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, please visit our website at www.fishandboat.com.