Turtle grower David Driver called police last week to report fences made from metal barn siding had been torn down around his turtle ponds, allowing the turtles to break free, The Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press reported Thursday.
"It's been going on all summer long," Driver said Wednesday. "There was about 2,200 [turtles] over there. We lost 1,600 of them."
Driver traps turtles and brings them to his property in Chattooga County, where he breeds them, then sells the baby turtles to either pet-growing operations in Florida or to people in China, where they are raised for food.
The Chattooga County Sheriff's Office said it is investigating the fence destruction at Driver's property as a possible scrap metal theft, as a tailgate from Driver's 1973 Jeep also was taken.
"At the end of the day, it's a theft," Hayes said. "It's hard enough to make it without somebody taking stuff."