Enjoy wild turtles in the wild
If you find turtles in a safe place, leave them there.
Turtles are very slow to mature and very few hatchlings live to adulthood. For these reasons, removing any individuals from the wild can greatly impact local populations.
Keep wild turtles safe
Generally, wild turtles should be left where they are found. However, sometimes they end up on a road or in another unsafe place. If you find turtles in a place that isn’t safe, let them go in the woods or in a park nearby (preferably near a water source).
If you see turtles on their backs at the side of the road, carefully turn them over and put them well away from the traffic. Gently put them on nice flat areas of grass or dirt facing in the same direction they were going; avoid rocky places and ditches.
Long-tailed turtles might be snapping turtles and they can bite. They can be safely moved out of the street with a long-handled shovel but be sure to be very gentle.
Turtles as pets
Keeping a turtle as a pet is a significant commitment. Here are some things to consider before buying one:
- Remember that wild turtles should never be taken home as pets.
- Be sure that you buy your turtle from a reputable store or breeder and that it is not wild caught.
- Turtles can live a long time – up to 80 years for some species! Be sure that you are ready for that kind of commitment.
- Research the diet, habitat and light requirements for the species that you are considering keeping as a pet. For most species, an aquarium is not sufficient.
Never release a pet turtle into the wild. Turtles kept in captivity may not have the important nutrients they need to survive through the cold winter. In addition, your turtle may not be native to your area and should not interbreed with wild turtles. Captive turtles may also carry diseases or parasites that could harm the local population. For these reasons, it is very important that if you no longer want a pet turtle and do not know where it was captured, you should try to find a capable new owner. For help, contact a local herpetology society, zoo or wildlife rehabber. Your state’s department of wildlife web page is a usually a great place to find lists of certified rehabbers.
Help improve turtle habitat
Participate in local community or river cleanups. Healthy turtle populations start with a healthy habitat.
Leave fallen trees and branches in place along shorelines. Turtles use these as a platform for basking in the sun.
Other ways to help
If you find injured or sick turtles, take them immediately to a turtle specialist. Call your local humane society, wildlife rehabber or zoo for the name of a turtle expert near you.
Don’t buy real tortoiseshell barrettes, brushes, ornaments or jewelry. Make sure it’s plastic before buying anything that looks like tortoiseshell.
Avoid restaurants with turtle soup, turtle eggs or turtle meat on the menu.
Don’t let your pet dog or cat run free where they can injure or kill wildlife. Keep them on a leash.
Become a member of the Turtle Survival Alliance.
Participate in Citizen Science Projects such as the Texas Turtle Watch.
Support local legislation protecting turtles from collection from the wild for the pet trade, food, or export to other countries.