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Illegal baby turtle sales spreading across metro Denver

DENVER -- A health warning has been issued for families after baby turtles started showing up for sale in the Denver area.

"They're about the size of a quarter so if a small child puts the turtle in their mouth they're obviously going to get sick,” said Nick Fisher with the Department of Agriculture.

They're hearing from animal control officers and shelters across the metro area where people are dropping off the sick animals.

People think the baby turtles would make a cute pet for their kids. But video taken during state raids show a different story.

State inspectors said the baby turtles are illegal and pose a public health threat. They carry potentially deadly salmonella. Investigators said the turtles are being brought in from Texas.

"Groups coming out of Texas and they seem to be staying at a Motel 6 up north somewhere. They never can tell us where the location is obviously,” Fisher said. "It's illegal to possess them so if somebody buys one, they're also in violation of state law. The salmonella hazard is pretty high."

They look cute, almost like a child's toy, slightly bigger than an inch across. The baby red-eared slider turtles belong in freshwater and vegetation instead of a dry plastic tub being sold on street corners.

Agriculture inspectors said they started showing up in Denver in August. They're selling for about $10 each.

Because they can only be cited for selling them illegally, the vendors jump from one location to another.

"These groups come up and it’s a fast way to make you know if they're selling 100 turtles at ten bucks that's a pretty good payday,” Fisher said.

It’s a payday of animal abuse, leaving families with sick and dying baby turtles.