PRESTON, Idaho — Emotions are mixed and high in Preston, Idaho, and throughout the country, after a snapping turtle was euthanized last week.
Robert Crosland, a biology teacher at Preston Junior High School, allegedly brought a puppy, that some sources say was already dying, to the school in early March. He then fed the puppy to the turtle after school in front of three students, according to East Idaho News.
The story gained media attention last week after animal activist Jill Parrish filed an animal cruelty report with Idaho police, according to the Idaho State Journal. The biology teacher has received threats on his life as well. The story has spread beyond the region and was picked up by national outlets including USA Today, Newsweek, New York Post and New York Daily News.
Since reporting the incident, Parrish said Preston residents are coming to the teacher’s defense and have even threatened Parrish. The science teacher has received threats as well. One Facebook user wrote about the puppy’s death, “Hey school shooters, you know what to do.” Authorities investigated and dismissed the threat as not credible, the Idaho State Journal reported.
The controversial case has raised a number of questions regarding the ethical treatment of animals, and many are wondering why the snapping turtle was euthanized as the result of the teacher’s alleged actions.
Many took to social media to express their concerns.
“Ok, I am confused as to why the turtle was euthanized?” noted Twitter user @bethsouth75. “That makes no sense. That is cruel in itself.”
“Why did they kill the turtle?” asked another Twitter user named @light_is_law1. “They could’ve released it or (given) it to a turtle sanctuary.”
Officials claim the turtle's death has nothing to do with with the puppy incident.
According to the Idaho Department of Agriculture, the turtle was euthanized because it is an invasive species.
“Snapping turtles are highly adaptable, top-tier predators in their habitat. The public is urged to avoid propagating invasive species or from bringing them in to Idaho from other states and countries,” the department said in a news release.
The turtle's death is not without precedent. When a large alligator snapping turtle was captured by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials in 2013, invasive species coordinator Rick Boatner defended the animal’s euthanization.
“I’d hate to see these turtles get established in Oregon,” he told the Statesman Journal. “We already have problems in the Willamette Valley with common snapping turtles.”
While communities are concerned about the humane treatment of invasive species, wildlife experts emphasize the long-term threats these species can cause to ecosystems.
"Invasive species are a major threat to biodiversity in the United States, second only to habitat loss and degradation. Non-native invaders can also be a threat to human health, and cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars by rendering lands unpalatable, clogging water pipes and decimating commercial fisheries by serving as transmitters of disease," according to the National Wildlife Federation.
Mark Hadley, the public information officer for Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, told KSL.com it was the Idaho Department of Agriculture that ultimately made the decision to euthanize the turtle because they have jurisdiction over protected and unprotected wildlife in the state.
“Snapping turtles — an invasive species in Idaho — are not protected by wildlife laws in Idaho, and that’s the reason the turtle was turned over to the Department of Agriculture,” Hadley said in an email.
Hadley said that, if a similar incident occurred in Utah, it would likely be the Utah Department of Agriculture that would make the call on whether or not to euthanize the animal.