SAYVILLE, Long Island (WABC) -- The Suffolk County Parks Department is investigating the deaths of more than 100 baby turtles.
A Long Island animal group says county workers "literally mowed down" the snapping turtle hatchlings at the Meadow Croft Estate.
"These animals have been nesting here for decades, so they should've known about the nests and they shouldn't have been mowing over them," said wildlife rehabilitator and anthrozoologist John Di Leonardo.
A Bayport resident found only 10 survivors after the incident on Monday.
Karen Maloney said they were the size of ping pong balls.
"I got out and to my horror, they were flattened, they were smashed, their heads were off, they were all over the field," Maloney said.
She reached out to the parks department and they told her they mow the lawn every two weeks and last mowed it on Wednesday, Aug. 10.
They sent her an email that said one of their environmentalists investigated the site and felt there was a possibility that predators got the nesting site.
"Not only is this massacre a concern for animal welfare advocates, but it is a horror for conservationists," wildlife rehabilitator and Humane Long Island volunteer Karenlynn Stracher said. "Snapping turtles are New York State's official reptile and a keystone species, serving as nature's cleanup crew and removing detritus from our lands and waterways. This important species must be protected."
Wildlife experts say the baby turtles hatched about a quarter of a mile from the water, which is where they were heading.
"My heart was broken," Di Leonardo said. "These were little baby animals who were experiencing life for the first time and instead of enjoying their stroll to the water, they were met with lawn mower blades."
Humane Long Island is urging authorities to immediately enact a prohibition on mowing over or otherwise disturbing nesting sites at Meadow Croft Estate from April to October to prevent similar tragedies.
The Suffolk Count Department of Parks released the following statement:
"Suffolk cares deeply about all wildlife living on County property and we do our best to protect all species at all times. We are aware of the situation at Meadow Croft Estate and staff has been deployed to investigate the site. Going forward we will be working with experts to determine any adjustments that could be made to prevent something like this from happening in the future."
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