Twenty-seven alligator snapping turtles were recently released back into East Texas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said Monday.
According to the TWPD, the turtles were seized in Louisiana from a fish hatchery in 2016 after being poached in Texas and transported to the neighboring state.
Alligator snapping turtles, a rare species of large turtles that weigh up to 150 pounds, are a popular food item with a restriction in Louisiana, the TPWD said.
"Alligator snapping turtles have been protected in Texas since the 1970s," said Meredith Longoria, deputy director of the TPWD Wildlife Division, in a press release. "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."
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Texas Game Wardens investigated the poaching of the turtles from Texas to Louisiana in 2017, which the TWPD said is a federal violation.
TPWD staff worked with turtle researchers across the state on a genetic analysis on the turtles to determine the river basin in East Texas where they originated.
Each turtle is also fitted with radio tags to allow researchers to monitor its habits, the TPWD said.