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Turtles Must be Left in the Wild

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department says keeping native turtles as pets is prohibited because it can harm the turtle and pose threats to wild turtle populations.

“Capturing a wild turtle and keeping it as a pet, even if only for a short time, is detrimental to that individual turtle and also to Vermont’s turtle populations as a whole,” said Vermont Fish and Wildlife herpetologist Luke Groff.  “Releasing captured turtles back into the wild comes with risks as well.”  Groff says the risks include introducing diseases or disrupting the genetics of wild populations. 

“Adult turtles often have well-defined home ranges and know exactly where to find shelter, food and mates.  Turtles released in unfamiliar habitats are likely to be disoriented and stressed, and they may attempt to return home, potentially causing them to cross roads and be struck by vehicles.”

Groff says taking a turtle out of the wild means removing its reproductive contribution to the population.  “Turtles are slow to develop, especially those living at northern latitudes where the growing season is short.  Many of Vermont’s turtle species do not reproduce until they are at least 10 years of age.  Older, sexually mature females are critically important to the long-term persistence of some Vermont turtle populations.  The loss of even a couple mature females from some populations may have serious consequences.”

Some common species you are likely to see include the painted turtle and snapping turtle.  The wood turtle, spotted turtle and spiny softshell are rare in Vermont, and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department urges you to report sightings of these species to the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas

If you see some of Vermont’s native turtles, Groff says “Feel free to take a photo home with you, but support Vermont’s turtles by leaving them in the wild.

For more information on Vermont’s native turtle species, visit Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s website and search for Reptiles or contact Vermont Fish and Wildlife herpetologist Luke Groff at