www.whyville.net Sep 11, 2016 Weekly Issue

Guest Writer

Wild Pet Turtles

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Here in Florida, we have a lot of wild turtles. If you look in any lake (or even retention pond), you will see their tiny noses poking out of the water! I have found many lost turtles walking around my neighborhood and I have quickly taken a picture and returned them to the nearest body of water . . . That is until just recently!

Two weeks ago, by chance, I found a baby turtle in my doorway while I was sweeping! I decided to keep it as a pet because it was just a tiny baby and I didn't want it to be eaten by a bird, a raccoon or any other natural predator. I am amazed how this little turtle found MY house! I have never seen one this small except in a pet store. I quickly identified it as a red-eared slider because I have had the same kind of turtles in the past (bought from a pet store).

This morning, I looked out the window and saw ANOTHER baby red-eared slider making its way across my porch! I quickly picked it up and put it in the tank with my first baby turtle. I'm glad to have two new baby turtles but I have to ask myself why this happened? These are pet-store-turtles so why were they walking in my yard? I had to look into it!

Red Eared Sliders live in the wild from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico. They will also live in the East Coast to West Texas (peteducation.com). Why are they here in Florida? Red Eared sliders are found in every state and in several countries around the world (http://srel.uga.edu/). They are an invasive species here in Florida. Red Eared Sliders are here in Florida because people are buying them as pets and then releasing them into the wild. They are living well and breeding (obviously because I found the babies!). They are fierce competitors for food in the wild and usually win against some local, smaller turtles. Most turtles I have seen locally are Peninsula Cooters and they are about the same size as adult Red Eared Sliders when they are fully grown.

It's been a long debated topic about what to do with turtles when they are fully-grown. Red Eared Sliders will grow up to 12 inches and most people do not have the space or resources to properly provide for a turtle this size. The solutions are to adopt it out (hard to find anyone who wants to take care of a big turtle), put it to "sleep" or release the turtle. Most people choose the latter and honestly, I have as well. Two of my turtles in the past were released (one was adopted out and eaten by a raccoon later . . . R.I.P.). I believe that releasing the turtle is the most humane way to go.

I do love my turtles but honestly, I don't think I can afford to keep them until they are fully grown. Both turtles are females and will grow to be about 12 inches when they are adults. This requires a massive pond with places to bask and places for shelter . . . not to mention the cleaning involved! Since I found these turtles in the wild, I figure I am like their foster mother until they are big enough to fend for themselves. When they are big enough, I will put them in the lake by my house where I have put many lost adult turtles (many of them were Red Eared Sliders!). I still see adult turtles thriving when I walk past. I like to get a quick look at them basking in the sun before they PLUNK into the water! Soon enough, these little turtles will join them. What do you think about releasing pet turtles into the wild?

Here are some pictures of the baby turtles I found as well as a picture of an adult Red Eared Slider I found around my neighborhood in April. The adult turtle has been released into the lake.


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