UPDATE Friday 11:40 a.m.
Officials with the Idaho Department of Agriculture have euthanized a turtle seized from a Preston teacher earlier this week.
In a news release Friday morning, the ISDA stated snapping turtles are highly-adaptable, top-tier predators in their habitat and the department is responsible for implementing provisions of the Invasive Species Act.
“The public is urged to avoid propagating invasive species or from bringing them into Idaho from other states and countries,” the release says. “Anyone in possession of an invasive species is urged to contact the ISDA. A permit application can be reviewed and a number of factors are taken into consideration before a permit may be issued.”
EastIdahoNews.com will have more information on this story later today.
PRESTON — Authorities have seized a snapping turtle from a Preston Junior High School science teacher who is currently under investigation for feeding a small puppy to the reptile.
The Idaho Department of Agriculture requested that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game remove the turtle from Robert Crosland’s possession.
“The Department of Agriculture sent an official request to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game asking us to seize the snapping turtle under the Department of Agriculture’s authority,” Regional Conservation Educator Jennifer Jackson tells EastIdahoNews.com. “Officials from the southeast region of the Department of Fish and Game took the turtle and gave it to the Department of Agriculture.”
The Department of Agriculture will determine what will happen to the turtle. Jackson did not elaborate on why Fish and Game seized the turtle.
Crosland has not been cited or charged with any crime. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation that was turned over to Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Vic Pearson. Pearson said Tuesday that due to a conflict of interest, his office has enlisted the help of a 6th Judicial District prosecuting attorney.
Crosland has taught science at Preston Junior High School for years. On Monday, EastIdahoNews.com reported he was being investigated after multiple sources said he fed the puppy to a snapping turtle after school in front of students.
A mother of two of the three boys in the classroom when the feeding happened told the Preston Citizen that the story has been blown out of proportion.
“If anyone has a right to be upset, it is me,” Farahlyn Hansen told the paper. “I am not upset. I felt like it was the more humane thing for Robert to do than to just leave it (the puppy) to die…The puppy was dying.”
She also told the newspaper that the puppy had been rejected by its mother.
Many students, former students, parents and community members have contacted EastIdahoNews.com saying they support Crosland and are disappointed, even angry, that the story has been in the news.
A petition titled “We Support Crosland” had over 3,000 signatures as of 9:15 p.m. Thursday, and dozens of Facebook users have posted positive messages in favor of the science teacher.
There has been backlash against Crosland in Idaho and across the country. EastIdahoNews.com has received dozens of phone calls and messages from people furious about what the teacher did. There are online petitions calling for Crosland to be fired, and one has over 90,000 signatures.
The Idaho Humane Society has asked for a thorough investigation into the alleged mistreatment of the puppy and PETA issued a statement calling on the school district to take the incident “seriously.”
“This teacher — who is allegedly known for feeding guinea pigs to reptiles during lessons — is a bully who should not be allowed near impressionable young people,” PETA Senior Director of Cruelty Casework Stephanie Bell said in the statement. “Any youngster who witnessed cruelty in the classroom is now in desperate need of lessons about having empathy for other living beings.”
The incident has resulted in threats targeting Crosland and Preston schools. Authorities increased security Thursday after a Facebook post was created encouraging violence against Preston School District 201. The Franklin County Sheriff determined the post did not pose a credible threat, according to a letter from Superintendent Marc Gee, but officers and deputies were stationed at schools as a precaution.
Crosland is a beloved teacher who brought science to life, according to a 2000 story published in The Herald Journal.
“Cages and aquariums line the walls, and they’re not just local snakes and frogs,” the article states. “His room is so interesting even former students still visit. Ninth-graders on Preston High School’s track team sometimes end their training runs at the junior high.”
“We had a blast when we were in his class,” Jacob Linderman told the paper at the time. “When we end our runs here, this is the first place we come to see all the animals.”