Why Turtles should not be kept as pets

and other helpful conservation information

Turtles don't need roads or highways, traffic, parking lots, construction areas, landfills, cultivated crops, gardens, sewers, fences, concrete, window wells, lawn mowers, tractors, pesticides, chemicals, malls, houses, schools, dogs, cats or people.

Turtles don't need people taking care of them. Turtles don't need love and affection, sweet words of kindness, hugs or kisses. Turtles don't need to be wrapped in towels or covered in blankets. Turtles don't need to be picked up, held, passed around, turned upside-down, teased, poked at or pried open.

Turtles don't need hamburger or store bought pet food. Turtles don't need loud noises, bright lights, constant darkness or isolation from its own species.

Turtles don't need toys, radios or TV. Turtles don't need rides on bicycles or visits to the neighbors. Turtles don't need to live in a classroom, bedroom, or basement. Turtles don't need to die in captivity.


Some turtles need a clearing with small fruit bearing plants, an open meadow with few grasses and a sunny sky. Other turtles need a clear, clean pond bustling with insects and plant life.

Some turtles need moist, rich soils to rest in on hot summer days. Those same turtles will need elevated and sandy soils into which they can lay eggs.

Some turtles need habitat that is surrounded by mature diverse woodland with soft, loose soil. This is where they will dig and bury themselves nearly 2 feet underground to hibernate during the winter.

Turtles need plump earthworms and juicy slugs and slimy snails. Turtles need ripened fruit, tender plants, tasty insects, delectable fungi and lots of luscious organic things - both flora and fauna.

Turtles need just a few acres to live all their lives. Turtles need privacy, peace, quiet, security, stability and freedom.


Turtles sometimes need to be rescued when crossing the road. Always place the turtle on the side of the road that he was heading toward. Be careful of the traffic - don't get yourself hurt!

Turtles need to be rescued when they get caught in window wells, fences, sewers or ditches. You may help them out and send them on their way - in the same direction that they were going!

Turtles need to be rescued and need professional help when they are attacked by dogs or cats. If the turtle is injured in any way, take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. (You can minimize this tragedy by keeping pets well attended.)

Turtles need to be rescued and need professional help when they are hit by a mower or a car. Sometimes they get caught by fishing hooks or fishing line. If the turtle is injured in any way, take it to a wildlife rehabilitator. Even a cracked shell (called a carapace) can be repaired!

For a rehabilitator near you call the IRC at 217-963-6909, or the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at 217-782-6384.



Turtles are disappearing in Illinois and all over the world at an alarming rate! Only a handful of natural areas remain for turtles. Accidents on roads and highways are the leading cause of death. Too many turtles are being kept by individuals or sold to pet stores. Many get shipped to foreign countries like Japan where they bring high prices.

Seeing this, CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) added several native turtles to their protected list. This protection means that no one may ship these turtles to other countries to be sold as pets without a special permits.

CITES protects wildlife against over-exploitation. It prevents international trade from threatening species with extinction.

Sun seeking turtles can end up in deadly highways. Illinois landowners can help wildlife by creating new habitat and restoring abused habitat. Dead turtles don't appreciate good intentions - so start today! If you need help - contact your local soil and water conservation district.



Please, don't keep turtles as pets!

Ask yourself the following questions.....

Can I correctly identify the turtle and do I know its natural history?

Turtles can live as long or longer than humans, am I ready to make a lifetime stewardship commitment?

Can I create all the habitats that it will need - inside my house?

Can I give it enough sunlight and exercise? Where will it hibernate?

Where will I get the proper foods? How much and when do I feed?

Will I be able to recognize the symptoms of turtle diseases? Can these diseases be passed to humans? Can I afford veterinary care?

Will keeping a turtle as a pet decrease or increase the native turtle population?

Does the turtle want to be a pet or does it want to be free?


Return to Home Page

For more information on helping injured and orphaned wildlife, see our brochure: How To Help Without Hurting.