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Babylon workers snap to it to help free turtle from hook and fishing line

A turtle was freed from a hook and fishing line on Monday afternoon by Babylon Town workers near the pond at Phelps Lane Park in North Babylon.  Credit: Babylon Town

A turtle was let off the hook — literally — after Babylon Town workers freed the ensnared animal from a fishing line.

On Monday afternoon, a resident alerted town worker Chuck Pohanka that a turtle with a fish hook sticking out of its mouth was crawling along the fence near the pond at Phelps Lane Park in North Babylon, said Babylon Town spokesman Daniel Schaefer. Pohanka got help from Gary Holmgren, a maintenance mechanic, and Christine Saturno, a receptionist in the Phelps Lane Park aquatics department.

The turtle had a hook all the way through its jaw, said Holmgren, who has worked for the town for eight years. He said he got some snips and pliers and while Saturno “did all the heavy lifting,” and held the turtle, he cut off the hook and pulled the line through. Holmgren said it only took a few minutes, and that after the hook was cut the turtle opened its mouth, making it easier to get the line out.

“He was actually pretty patient,” Holmgren said of the reptile, which the workers believe is a snapping turtle. “He knew we were helping him, I think.”

They put the reptile back into the pond and he swam away, said Saturno, who has worked for the town for a year. Holmgren said there was “no way the turtle could have crawled over the bulkhead” to where it was found, so he believes someone likely realized they had caught a snapping turtle and just cut the line, leaving the animal with the hook.

The preservation group World Wildlife Fund calls fishing gear the “single greatest threat to most sea turtles.” However, according to a study published in a 2014 issue of the scientific journal “PLoS One,” “fish-hook ingestion has not been thoroughly investigated as a conservation threat for freshwater turtles” and more research is needed. In that study, between 3.5 percent and 33 percent of the turtle species studied had ingested fish hooks.

Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer described Holmgren and Saturno as “very caring and dedicated” staff members. “It doesn’t surprise me that they would go above and beyond to help this struggling turtle,”Schaffer said.

Holmgren and Saturno were modest about their wildlife conservation efforts.

“We just wanted to do the right thing and bring him back home,” Holmgren said. 

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