Every Turtle Counts

The U.S. is a global hotspot for turtle biodiversity. We are home to a greater number of terrestrial and freshwater turtle species than any other single country. In fact, many species are found only here.

Turtles are renowned for their long lives, but they also take a long time to reach reproductive age – often a decade or more. Because most hatchling turtles don’t survive that long (they are bite-sized snacks for predators), adults often must reproduce for their entire lives to ensure just one hatchling makes it to reproductive age to sustain the population. Read more about Where Have All the Turtles Gone, and Why Does it Matter here.

All of this together means the loss of adult turtles can contribute to population declines. When people take turtles out of the wild, they put entire populations at risk. Therefore, #EveryTurtleCounts

A Blanding's turtle looks to the left of an image. Its eyes are closed, and it has its rear feet dug into sand as if it were digging a nest.
Blanding’s Turtle by Courtney Celley/ USFWS

Turtles as Pets

Wild turtles do not make good pets, and many collected from the wild do not survive or remain healthy in captivity. Turtles are a long-term commitment with some turtles living for over 50 years. Wild turtles also need specialized care and habitat requirements which can be costly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children, pregnant women, and persons with compromised immune systems avoid contact with reptiles, including turtles, to avoid getting salmonella.

If you are thinking about purchasing a pet turtle, familiarize yourself with state, federal, and international wildlife regulations regarding the sale and possession of specific species. Always be sure to inquire about where a turtle came from before you consider buying one. It is important to #BuyInformed. Another option is to check local animal shelters for unwanted pet turtles that need a new home. Some places include: 

Have an Unwanted Pet? Don’t Let Them Go!

Releasing unwanted pets into the wild is illegal in most states. Many released animals do not survive and have the ability to transmit disease to local wildlife. Here are a few options for unwanted pets: 

Illegal Trade in Turtles

Did you know? Turtles are sometimes stolen from the wild and sold illegally. The Collaborative to Combat the Illegal Trade in Turtles (CCITT) is working to advance efforts to better understand, prevent, and eliminate the illegal collection and trade of North America’s native turtles.

If you suspect someone is illegally collecting or selling wild turtles, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by phone (1–844-FWS-TIPS) or email (fws_tips@fws.gov), or contact your state or provincial wildlife agency. #EveryTurtleCounts

White text on a blue background reads ‘Be a good turtle neighbor. There may be things you can do on your land or in your community to support turtles, like creating a backyard habitat.If you suspect someone is illegally collecting or selling wild turtles, contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at fws_tips@fws.gov’ To the left of  the text, a turtle surrounded by clovers is picturednext to a small caption of ‘photo by Gary Peeples’.
Find more infographics on our #WIldTurtleWeek page

How to Help Turtles

Growing awareness of the threats turtles face is helping support important conservation efforts needed to keep our U.S. turtle populations safe. Here are some actions you can take:

  1. Check out our Six Simple Actions to Save Turtles (PDF) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service page on How to Help Turtles. If you want to know how to help sea turtles, check out the NOAA page here.
  2. Found a Turtle In Trouble? Call for Help
  3. Spread the word! Check out our Wild Turtle Week page for social media content.
  4. Educate others about our wild turtles. Check out the Turtle Networking Team for more information. 
  5. Create habitat for wildlife in your own backyard or community. Check out the Garden for Wildlife page through the National Wildlife Federation.
At the top of the image is text that says "I Pledge to: keep turtles wild, help turtles cross the road, buy informed, and create habitat.' Below the text is the PARC logo, #WIldTurtleWeek, and a photo attribution to Courtney Celley/USFWS. A colorful western painted turtle partially in its shell is looking at the camera.

For More Information

Questions can be sent to: parc_coordinators@parcplace.org