Should you keep a wild turtle?

Shutterstock.com/Marco Fine
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If someone finds a freshwater turtle, especially a tiny hatchling one, they consider keeping it as a pet. It’s pretty common, isn’t it? But, is it legal to keep a wild turtle? Are the turtles difficult to take care of?

A simple answer

It is not a good idea to keep a wild turtle as pet. Whether it is legal or not varies on the rules in your state or province, but in any case, bringing a turtle from its natural habitat is not a good idea.

Turtles grow slowly

Turtles invest a lot of time and energy in developing a strong and heavy shell to protect themselves from the beast of prey. They don’t begin breeding till very late in the life. Even a large mammal like a whitetail deer can breed when it is an year old, but hatching turtles have to wait five to six years.

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Few turtles reach adulthood

After the long wait to breed, a spotted turtle or a box turtle will lay up to half a dozen eggs. Larger species will lay more. The chances are high that an egg will be dug out and eaten by a raccoon, or that a hatchling will be picked up by a passing crow, unfortunately.

Source: Pexels

Humans put turtles in danger

There are many Human activities that are already putting a lot of pressure on many turtle denizens. The hard shell evolved to stonewall turtles from predators does little to prevent being killed by a car. As road networks multiply and disintegrate turtle habitats over the last half-century, roadkill has been the fate of multitudinous adults. Adding insult to injury, hunt illegally is uncontrollable to feed the illegal domestic pet trade and international exports.

All of these factors result in a dwindling turtle population. Thus, the loss of adult individuals has a superfluous effect on the entire population and contributes to the decline. The turtle picked up maybe alive but if you take it home, it can no longer contribute any breeding effort. As it relates to its own nature, it may as well have been killed.

Is it legal to own a wild turtle?

Collecting turtles in the wild is contraband in many sovereignties, either for at-risk species or for all kinds. Additionally, the sale of young turtles less than four inches long has been not allowed by the US Food and Drug jurisdiction since 1974. This is due to the possible risk of turtles carrying and transmitting the Salmonella bacteria, which can make us sick.

Can I buy a turtle instead?

Turtles advertised for sale in the online classified advertisements are usually labelled as captive-bred, in theory, they can be legal in some states. However, captive-bred or the captive-born label is often a lie to sell wild-caught poached turtles. There is no competent way to verify these claims as it is impassable to tell a captive-born turtle from a wild one.

The challenges of keeping a turtle

  • Sooner or later, keeping a pet turtle is not as simple as it seems.
  • Turtles may have very unambiguous food requirements. Some species will be satisfied with store-bought dried shrimp meals, but others hunt for snails, aquatic insects, and correspondingly hard to find items.
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  • Turtles may require a lot of space with their growth to adulthood. Large freshwater species will need a ponderous aquarium, which comes with conjoining high costs and maintenance necessities

How can I help wild turtles?

If you find a turtle crossing a road, the best response would be to allow it to cross safely unobstructed.

If there is a risk of cars coming, you can move the turtle along across the road, in the direction it was headed to. Place it down well off the road shoulder. If the turtle appears to have come from a swampland visible from the road, don’t return it there. That turtle will in all probability have to cross the road once again, on her way to another wetland or to a nesting site.

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