Three northwestern Minnesota men face criminal charges for allegedly having snapping turtles out of season.
The Department of Natural Resources says an investigation at Ketter's Meat Market in Frazee this summer has led to charges of illegally taking and possessing snapping turtles during the closed season.
Under Minnesota law, turtle season is closed during May and June.
The DNR says a search of the Frazee market on June 29 turned up 23 live snapping turtles (which were later released), 243 snapping turtle shells, and 291 10-pound packages of turtle meat.
The Star Tribune says the defendants are market owner Kevin Ketter, 54, his nephew Jordan Ketter, 21, and market employee Darwin Bartel, 54.
The Perham Focus reports an undercover DNR operative and surveillance photos were keys to building the case. The paper says in applying for a warrant to search Ketter's, the DNR wrote that photos showed numbers of turtles were brought into the market from June 13-18 by various vehicles, some of which were registered to market employees.
The Becker County Attorney's office is prosecuting the case. The DNR says each defendant is charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Snapping turtles a species of concern in Minnesota
Although snapping turtles are widespread in Minnesota, they have been listed as a species of concern since 1984 – mainly, the DNR says, because the effects of a commercial harvest on the turtles are unknown and are possibly detrimental to the species.
The DNR says the situation is complicated by the fact that peak harvest is typically in late June, which coincides with egg-laying season.
Snapping turtles are commonly harvested for their meat, which is used for human consumption.
According to its website, Ketter's Meats & Locker Plant has been in business for more than 90 years.
A DNR captain tells the Star Tribune Ketter's was selling turtle meat to restaurants and commercial customers in areas including the Twin Cities.