Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Turtle Laws

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Turtle & Tortoise Laws overview in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia

Turtle Laws vary by location with some states banning owning a pet turtle or tortoise completely.

Turtles and tortoises are probably the two reptiles that just about everyone likes. Both belong to the order of Testudines, but in different classification families. The major difference between the two is that turtles live in the water most of their time while tortoises dwell on land.

Having a pet turtle or tortoise, or breeding these species is no nuisance. There are at least four reasons why keeping turtles and tortoises in private households or breeding them is regulated by the law:

• protectionism of endangered species
• issues of public health and human safety
• animal welfare
• ecosystem preservation

Some laws focus on one of these reasons while some others cover more than one aspect of the tenure and ownership of turtles and tortoises.

Quick Reference Section

1. Protectionism of endangered turtles and tortoises on a global basis

1.1 CITES:

CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) is an international conservation agreement administered by the United Nations Environment Programme.

This convention was enacted in 1975 and regulates the international trade in threatened and potentially threatened species (live specimens, parts, or derived products) to prevent over-exploitation and thereby ensure legal, sustainable, and traceable trade.

The convention is implemented through an export and import control licensing system, to which currently 182 parties are bound.

This system monitors trade in 35.000 species of flora and fauna (of which 793 are reptile species).

These species are listed in three Appendices each having various prerequisites that underpin permitting trade:

Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction that are or may be affected by international trade, and are generally prohibited from commercial trade.

Appendix II includes species that, although not necessarily threatened with extinction now, may become so unless the trade is strictly controlled. It also lists species that must be regulated so that trade in other listed species may be brought under effective control (e.g., because of similarity of appearance to other listed species).

Appendix III includes native species, identified by any Party, that are regulated domestically to prevent or restrict exploitation, where the Party requests the help of other Parties to monitor and control the trade of the species.

Twelve turtle and tortoise species, from seven genera, were selected as “priority turtle species”. But in the facts, CITES is only partially effective in decreasing the trade.

1.2 IUCN

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has assessed 45% of the world’s reptile species and determined that at least 1390 species are threatened by “biological resource use.”

Of these, 355 species are intentionally targeted by collectors, including 194 non-CITES-listed species.

Some of these non-CITES species are, however, nationally protected in their country of origin.

The global conservation status of the priority turtle & tortoise species, as assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), ranges through Critically Endangered (D. mawii); Endangered (C. guttata, E. blandingii and G. insculpta); Vulnerable (G. agassizii, G. polyphemus and T. carolina); Near Threatened (M. terrapin and T. ornata); Least Concern (G. berlandieri); and Data Deficient (T. nelsoni). Gopherus morafkai has not been assessed on the current IUCN Red List.

In 2014, the Turtle Taxonomy Working Group of the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group drafted provisional reassessments of some of the priority species.

These reassessments indicate that at the next formal Red List update, the status of G. agassizii is likely to be changed to Critically Endangered; G. polyphemus to Endangered; G. morafkai and M. terrapin to Vulnerable; and G. berlandieri to Near Threatened.

In the United States, D. mawii is listed as Endangered and the northern population of G. agassizii is listed as Threatened, under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The southern population of G. agassizii (now G. morafkai) is listed as Threatened (Similarity of Appearance).

The level of state protection for these species varies between jurisdictions. All Gopherus species are protected from collection for commercial or personal purposes by the laws of each state in which they range.

Useful Links:

2. Issues of public health concerning turtles & tortoises

Turtles (as well as other reptiles) carry salmonella bacteria, which can be easily transmitted to people. A small turtle may seem harmless, giving parents a false sense that they’re a safe pet for children. But the disease risk is so great that selling small turtles is illegal in the United States.

Useful links:

• Turtle-Associated Salmonellosis in Humans—United States, 2006—2007, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (July 6, 2007 / 56(26);649–52), available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5626a1.htm.

• Eight Multistate Outbreaks of Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Small Turtles (Final Update), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (Oct. 18, 2013) https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/small-turtles-03-12/.

3. Issues of turtle & tortoise welfare

Turtles and tortoises can live many years but in captivity often live much shorter lives. This is usually because of misunderstandings about their needs that makes them find it difficult to adapt to captivity.

Also, the capture, handling and transportation predispose them to the effects of stress and or infection.

This is the reason why in some cases, laws take care of regulating minimum conditions under wich turtles and tortoises should be captured, handled, transported, bred and even kept in private residences.

4. Issues of ecosystem preservation

People sometimes turn turtles and tortoises loose, thinking they are “freeing” them, but it’s typically illegal to release turtles outdoors. Turtles that are set free might die, and they might carry disease that kills other turtles.

If they live, they can out-compete native species for food and habitat, threatening native biodiversity.

5. Special concerns about sea turtles

Sea turtles are specially taken care of, considering the fundamental role they fill in marine ecosystems.

Seven different species of sea (or marine) turtles grace ocean waters. During the last decades they have been suffering from poaching and over-exploitation.

They also face accidental capture—known as bycatch—in fishing gear, habitat destruction and the impact of climate on nesting sites.

Also temperature changes alters the sand temperatures, which then affects the sex of hatchlings.

Nearly all species of sea turtle are now classified as endangered, with three of the seven existing species being critically endangered.

Source: https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/sea-turtle

6. Is it legal to keep turtles as pets? The situation in the US.

The possession, breeding, and trade of turtles in the United States is regulated by federal, state, and local laws.

Two states, North Carolina and South Dakota, ban the sale of all turtles. North Carolina law states that “[n]o turtle shall be sold, offered for sale, or bartered by any retail or wholesale establishment in North Carolina.” In South Dakota, “[a] person may not buy, sell, barter, or trade any species of turtle.”

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibits the sale of live turtles with a carapace of less than four inches in length, although smaller turtles may be exported.

In general terms, the sale of small turtles was banned in 1975 in the United States to prevent the spread of salmonella (source: https://www.humanesociety.org/news/thinking-getting-pet-turtle).

Federal law states that “viable turtle eggs and live turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches shall not be sold, held for sale, or offered for any other type of commercial or public distribution.”

Limited exemptions exist, such as use of turtles for “bona fide scientific, education, or exhibitional purposes, other than use as pets.”
Source: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=1240.62.

Larger turtles may be imported and sold.

All sea turtles are protected by federal and state law. Sea turtles are also protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is responsible for administering the ESA For more information, check out the website of NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources.

Under section 3372(a)(1) of the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 (16 U.S.C. 3371-3378), it is unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase any wildlife taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law, treaty, or regulation of the United States or in violation of any Indian tribal law.

The four native U.S. freshwater turtle species are protected to varying degrees by State and Tribal laws within the United States, with significant differences in levels and types of protection.

Because many State laws and regulations regulate the take of these four native U.S. freshwater turtle species, certain acts (import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, purchase) with these four native U.S. freshwater turtle species taken unlawfully under State law could result in a violation of the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 and thus provide for Federal enforcement action due to a violation of State law.

Source: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/05/24/2016-11201/inclusion-of-four-native-us-freshwater-turtle-species-in-appendix-iii-of-the-convention-on

6.1. Federal Law

As previously mentioned, two States ban the sale of all turtles.

Fourteen states ban the sale of turtles four inches or less and three States ban the sale of small turtles by incorporating the federal standard by reference.

Five states require that turtles sold within the jurisdiction be “certified salmonella free.”

District of Columbia prohibits the sale of turtles and viable turtle eggs unless they can be “certified to be free” from Salmonella.

Similarly, Louisiana law states that “[n]o person shall receive a shipment of turtles or turtle eggs into this state through the United States mail, or by any other means, from any other state or foreign country, unless such turtles or turtle eggs are accompanied by . . . [a] health certificate issued by a duly authorized veterinarian certifying that the turtles or turtle eggs are free from Salmonella Arizona, and any other species of bacteria which might be harmful to humans or other turtles.”

States have also enacted laws that limit turtle exposure for vulnerable populations. This includes children in day care and other facilities and programs, as well as those seeking medical care in health and long-term care facilities.

Eight states and the District of Columbia require warning labels, health advisories, or other instructions in order to sell turtles.

For example, District of Columbia law states that a “warning notice shall be posted conspicuously at every display of turtles for retail sale or distribution or where the public may handle turtles.

Sixteen states limit turtle access around children.

Eight states and one territory limit turtle access in medical facilities.

Ten states prohibit turtles in food establishments.

A growing number of states have already dedicated themselves to protecting wild turtles. In February Missouri banned commercial turtle trapping, and in August Texas followed suit.

In 2017 New York ended commercial trapping of diamondback turtles, Nevada halted commercial reptile collection, and Iowa reined in trapping with new harvest limits.

In the past decade, Florida and Alabama have completely banned commercial turtle trapping, and Georgia and Mississippi have approved stronger regulations on the industry.

6.2 State Law

Alabama Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Alabama, which has 25 species of turtles, forbids to take turtles from wild for commercial use, but allows to take up to 2 turtles a day by dip net or hook and line for private use. Turtle poachers caught selling turtles in the state face a maximum $500 fine and one year in jail.

Farmed turtles for human consumption and the pet trade are not affected by the law. However a PERMIT is required for native turtles used for commercial business. Turtle farmers must also meet enclosure and care requirements.

Permits issued: Turtle Farmer’s Permit (propagate captive-born) & Turtle Dealer’s Permit (sell, purchase, trade, import, export.

DEALER: Authorized to sell, purchase, trade, import or export live turtles or turtle eggs for resale or stocking purposes or who sells, offers for sale, or trades for anything of value legally acquired live turtles.

FARMER: authorized to engage in business of propagating legally acquired captiveindigenous turtles or eggs for commercial purpose.

Law bans propagating non-indigenous turtles and importing for propagation (See Section 9-11-269, Code of Alabama 1975).

Alabama’s native turtles are as follows:

Import requires bill of lading with name, permit number, date of shipment, quantity and species, origin, destination, total value and signature of owner/transporter.

To purchase a license a person must visit the Montgomery Office (64 North Union St., Ste.559, Montgomery, AL 36104)

Or mail a completed application (download at www.outdooralabama.com/licenses) to Dept. of Conservation, Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries, Attn: Enforcement: PO Box 301459, Montgomery, AL 36130-1456 64 N Union St., Ste.559, Montgomery, AL 36104 (overnight/express)

Source: Alabama Admin. Code 220-2-.142 Turtle Dealer/Farmer Regulation. Authority: Code of Alabama 9-2-7, 9-2-8, 9-2-12

Alaska Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Alaska has strict statutes and regulations regarding pets and what animals can be held as pets, including holding wild animals as pets. Turtles appear on the “Clean List” (5 AAC 92.029), therefore, can be imported into Alaska or possessed as a pet in Alaska.

However, the native (indigenous) fish and wildlife of Alaska are a public resource. You may not cage or fence in a wild creature and try to make it your pet, even if you think it is a juvenile that has been abandoned.

It is illegal for citizens to possess or export native Alaska species as pets. However, some other forms of wildlife or fish possession are allowed with the necessary permit.

  • The Alaskan waters are home to two species of turtles. They are the Leatherback Sea Turtle and the Green Sea Turtle.
  • Terrestrial and freshwater aquatic species of turtles do not occur in Alaska.
Arizona Turtle & Tortoise Laws

In Arizona it is unlawful to import, export, sell, purchase, propagate or release any live wildlife without a commercial permit.

A state hunting or combination license is required to take any turtle from the wild. A fishing or combination license is required for Softshells.

Bag limit and/or possession of all legal turtles except Softshells, Sliders and Snappers is 4 per year. Softshells, Sliders and Snappers have no limit.

Turtles may not be taken at any time (or during periods specified) in certain areas.

Here is a link to Arizona Reptile Regulations showing those areas and dates: Link to Reptile Regulations Arizona.

Beginning January 1, 2013, a person shall not own, possess, keep, harbor, import or transport into this state, have custody or control of or propagate any Desert Tortoise or Ornate Box Turtle without a permit issued by the state.

Unprotected species may be kept but in no event shall any person possess more than one bag or possession limit.

Possession limit of any Desert Tortoise is one per person.

Limit for Ornate Box Turtle is zero (unless possessed prior to 1/1/2005 and special regulations apply to the possession of any progeny of those animals).

Possession of all other turtles is 4. There is no limit on dead Apalone spinifera (spiny softshell), Trachemys scripta (slider), and Chelydridae (snapping turtles).

A special license is required for any person who is involved with selling, trading, displaying, purchasing, exporting, possessing, propagating and rearing live aquatic animals or transports live aquatic animals to persons who are licensed to resell, process or stock aquatic animals.

It is unclear if a legally wild caught native live turtle may be sold commercially.

Useful links:

Arkansas Turtle & Tortoise Laws

State regulations are established by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (AGFC) under authority of Amendment 35 to the Constitution of the State of Arkansas.

Wildlife pets are restricted to six individuals of a species per household. The sale, purchase, barter, or transporting of such animals from the state or the progeny thereof is prohibited.

The following herptiles may not be taken: Alligator Snapping Turtles, Ornate Box Turtles, Hellbenders, troglodytic (cave-dwelling) species, or those animals defined as endangered species.

Small turtles:

Arkansas, bans the sale of small turtles six inches or less: “[No] person shall sell, offer for sale or distribute at wholesale, retail, or as a gift to the public, a live turtle or turtles, tortoise, terrapin under six inches long . . . in the State of Arkansas.”

Non native turtles:

A Wildlife Importation Permit is required to import live wildlife into the state (with the exception that up to 6 box turtles may be brought into the state as pets)

California Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Small turtles:

California law makes it “unlawful to import, sell or offer for sale or distribution to the public any live turtle(s) with a carapace length of less than 4 inches.

Native turtles:

Except for pet shops, every person, who, for commercial purposes, sells, possesses, transports, imports, exports or propagates native turtles shall have a native reptile propagation permit.

It is unlawful to display, in any place of business where pets or other animals are sold, native reptiles or amphibians which cannot lawfully be sold.

It is unlawful to sell, purchase, harm, take, possess, or transport any native tortoise (Gopherus). Non-natives are legal.

  • It is unlawful to sell wild caught turtles
  • Only Sliders, Painted Turtles and Softshells (no limit) may be taken from the wild with a sportfishing license. All others are protected.
  • Native reptiles and amphibians are those subspecies, and species of the classes Reptilia indigenous for California or produced in captivity.

As follows is the list of California’s native turtles:

Non native turtles:

Non-native species may not be imported without a permit. In 2010 the state stopped issuing permits.

Additionaly:

Cities and counties have additional authority to regulate collection, possession and permitting.

No animals may be taken from national or state parks.

Turtles may be taken by hand or hook and line.

It is unlawful to use any method or means of collecting that involves breaking apart of rocks, granite flakes, logs or other shelters in or under which turtles may be found.

It is unlawful to release any turtle kept in captivity into the wild.

Cities and counties have additional authority to regulate possession, collection and permits.

It is unlawful to import, transport, or possess any live Snapping Turtle.

The department may authorize the possession and propagation of no more than three species and no more than 30 individuals in the aggregate including progeny under a native reptile propagation permit.

Within the overall limit of 30 individuals, no more than four of any one species to be taken from the wild.

Colorado Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Up to 12 combined Painted and Box Turtles and their progeny may be held in captivity for noncommercial purposes. They may not be sold, only gifted.

Possession of Snapping Turtles, alive or dead, is unlimited.

Native turtles:

As follows is the list of Colorado’s native turtles:

Non native turtles:

All non-native tropical and sub-tropical species in the families: Carettochelyidae (New Guinea softshell turtles), Dermatemydidae (Central American river turtles), Kinosternidae (mud and musk turtles), Testudinidae (tortoises), Trionychidae (soft-shelled turtles), and Red Ear Sliders are unregulated meaning they may be imported, sold, bartered, traded, transferred, possessed, propagated, and transported
An importation permit is required for all other species.

Wild turtles:

Up to 4 each Painted and Box Turtles may be taken annually with a maximum possession of 12. All other native species are protected.

These turtles may not be released back into the wild if they have been in contact with other reptiles and in no case, more than 10 miles from where they were collected.

Snapping Turtles may be taken April 1 through October 31 in unlimited numbers with a current Fishing or Small Game license.

Small turtles:

Colorado law makes it unlawful “[t]o sell, barter, exchange, or otherwise transfer, possess, import, or cause to be imported into this state . . . Any type of turtle with a length in carapace of less than four inches.

However, Colorado law provides “that a person may possess a turtle that the person has bred with a length in carapace of less than four inches.

Other concerns:

A Commercial Wildlife Park License is required for commercial use of wildlife including: buying, selling, propagating, brokering or trading of lawfully acquired captive wildlife or exhibiting wildlife for educational or promotional purposes.

Connecticut Turtle & Tortoise Laws

In Connecticut, there is a partial ban on private ownership of exotic animals.

Native turtles:

Connecticut is home to eight species of turtle (excluding the marine turtles), representing three families: Chelydridae (Snapping Turtles), Emydidae (Pond and Marsh Turtles) and Kinosternidae (Musk Turtles).

Connecticut regulations allow the taking of a limited number of snapping turtles.

People are generally banned from taking other turtle species in Connecticut, including those listed as endangered or threatened.

By law, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) may adopt regulations on the taking of wildlife (CGS § 26-66). Additionally, taking reptiles is prohibited except as authorized in regulations (CGS § 26-70). DEEP has adopted regulations on the seasons, bag limits, and taking of reptiles, including certain turtles (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 26-66-14).

Under the regulations, there is no open season for taking bog turtles, wood turtles, diamondback terrapins, eastern box turtles, or spotted turtles (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 26-66-14(a)).

However, the regulations allow, but limit, the taking of snapping turtles, as described below(Conn. Agencies Regs. § 26-66-14(d)).

Endangered or threatened turtles: DEEP has designated bog turtles, loggerhead turtles, Atlantic green turtles, leatherback turtles, and Atlantic ridley turtlesas endangered or threatened.

This designation generally bans people from taking thesespecies from public property or state waters or for commercial purposes (CGS § 26-311).

Snapping turtles:

The open season for taking snapping turtles in Connecticut is July 15 through September 30 annually.

Effective July 7, 2016, the daily and seasonal bag limits are five and 10, respectively (they were previously five and 30.)

People are prohibited from taking snapping turtle eggs (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 26-66-14(d)).

During the open season, only snapping turtles with a straight line upper shell (carapace) length of at least 13 inches may be taken. They may only be taken by hand, dip net, turtle hook, turtle trap, or a personally attended hook and line.

The regulations also set trap restrictions for taking snapping turtles. For example, no one may use more than three traps at any given time.

Traps must be (1) set in a way that allows the turtles to surface and breathe and (2) constructed with at least a one-inch wide mesh size.

Traps must have a functional escape hole with a minimum diameter of 7.5 inches to allow fish and smaller turtles to pass through.

They must be tagged with a plate or tag visible above the water line bearing the trapper’s conservation identification number.

In addition, all traps must be checked by the trapper and emptied of catch at least once every 24 hours.

If a person takes snapping turtles by hook and line, they must hold a fishing license. To take them bytrap, a person must obtain a free snapping turtle trapping endorsement from DEE.

Small turtles:

Under Connecticut law, “[n]o person may sell a live turtle with a carapace length of four inches or greater unless

  • (1) a caution notice is posted by the person selling turtles which warns that the transmission of salmonella disease by turtles is possible
  • (2) at the time of the sale of the turtle, the seller furnishes the buyer with a copy of the caution notice and information obtained from a veterinarian regarding the proper care and feeding for the species of turtle which is being sold
  • (3) the buyer signs a form stating that he has read the notice provided if the buyer is less than sixteen years of age, such form shall be signed by a parent or guardian.”

Salmonella concerns:

Connecticut law specifies that, after a state or local health department examines a turtle tank, “[s]hould a single such examination show the presence of salmonella organisms all turtles in the tank shall be destroyed.”

Useful links:

Delaware Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

It is unlawful for any person to collect, possess, import, cause to be imported, export, cause to be exported, buy, sell or offer for sale any native wildlife species or any part thereof for commercial purposes without a permit.

However,they may be possessed, imported, sold or offered for sale for commercial purposes without a permit if there is written documentation to confirm that said wildlife was legally taken in and transported from another state.

It shall be unlawful for any person to breed in captivity any native wildlife species without a permit. A signed bill of sale shall accompany any captive-bred species that are sold.

Snapping turtles with a SCL greater than 11″ may be taken by hand or by using a spear, gig, fyke net or turtle trap from June 15 and May 15.

A person may take up to 4 Diamondback Terrapins per day between September 1 and November 15 only. However, a permit is required for more than 1 in possession at any time-

Unless otherwise provided by law or regulation of the Department, it shall be unlawful for any person to remove from the wild or possess any native reptile or amphibian species, their eggs or parts without a permit.

List of Delaware’s native turtles:

Non native turtles:

No person shall bring into Delaware, possess, sell or exhibit any live reptile not native to or generally found in Delaware without firstsecuring a permit

It shall be unlawful for any person to breed in captivity any native wildlife species without a permit

Other considerations:

It shall be unlawful for any person to release captive-bred species or any turtle held more than 30 days in captivity into the wild.

It is unlawful to possess a Bog Turtle or any Sea Turtle.

One individual of each of the following turtle species may be possessed without a permit: Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin), Common Musk (Sternotherus odoratus), Eastern Box (Terrapene carolina carolina), Eastern Mud (Kinosternon subrubrum subrubrum), Painted (Chrysemys Picta), Northern Redbelly (Pseudemys rubriventris) and Snapping (Chelydra serpentina) turtles.

Places where turtles are not allowed: Delaware state law bans turtles from childcare facilities: “Animals such as ferrets, turtles, iguanas, lizards or other reptiles, psittacine birds (birds of the parrot family), or any other animals that are known to be carriers of illnesses shall not be kept at the Center.

Florida Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

For the list of all the native turtle species in Florida please check: http://www.nauti-lasscritters.com/state-florida.html

Non native turtles:

It is unlawful to release any non-native species into the wild.

A special blanket import permit is required to import into the state any non-native species

A special permit is needed to import leopard tortoises (Geochelone pardalis), African spurred tortoises (G. sulcata) or Bell’s hingeback tortoises (Kinixys belliana) from another state except for some publicly owned or research facilities and traveling exhibits.

Other considerations:

No person shall take, transport, or possess any alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii), Barbour’s map turtle (Graptemys barbouri) or Suwannee cooter (Pseudemys suwanniensis), their eggs, or parts thereof.

No person shall possess more than two Escambia map turtles (Graptemys ernsti), two diamond-backed terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin), two box turtles (Terrapene carolina), or two loggerhead musk turtles (Sternotherus minor).

No person shall buy, sell, take or possess any gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus)

No person shall possess any turtle or tortoise on which paint has been applied to its shell or body parts, provided that water-soluble, non-toxic identifying marking may be used in turtle racing contests.

No person shall transport more than one turtle or any turtle eggs unless authorized by license or permit.

It is unlawful to buy, sell or possess a Red-eared Slider unless acquired prior to 7/1/2007

For turtles not listed above (1), the following restrictions control the take:

  • (a) No person shall take more than one turtle per day unless authorized by permit
  • (b) Turtle eggs may not be taken from the wild
  • (c) Turtles may only be taken by hand, baited hooks, minnow seine nets or dip nets.
  • (d) No softshell turtles (Apalone spp.) may be taken from the wild during the period May 1 to July 31
  • (e) Turtles may be taken throughout the year in any manner not conflicting with other provisions of these rules.

Some turtle farms depend on collection of wild freshwater turtles. With the new rule, certified turtle aquaculture facilities, under a tightly controlled permitting system, will be allowed to collect turtles to establish reproduction in captivity so that farms can become self-sustaining to lessen their dependence on collection of turtles from the wild.

The transport of more than one turtle per day is prohibited, unless the transporter has a license for sale or exhibition of wildlife, aquaculture certification or documentation that their turtles were legally obtained (proof of purchase).

A Class III, exhibition or sale license, is required for the public sale or exhibition of turtles

Sea turtles in Florida are either endangered or threatened. They are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act (379.2431, Florida Statutes).

Florida Statutes restrict the take, possession, disturbance, mutilation, destruction, selling, transference, molestation, and harassment of marine turtles, nests or eggs. Protection is also afforded to marine turtle habitat.

A specific authorization from Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) staff is required to conduct scientific, conservation, or educational activities that directly involve marine turtles in or collected from Florida, their nests, hatchlings or parts thereof, regardless of applicant’s possession of any federal permit under the Florida Marine Turtle Permit Rule (Chapter 68E-1, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.)).

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the FWC dually review permits for coastal construction under the Beaches and Coastal Systems Rule (Chapter 62B, F.A.C.). that affect Marine Turtles.

The state of Florida developed the Model Lighting Ordinance for Marine Turtle Protection Rule (62B-55, F.A.C.) to guide local governments in creating lighting ordinances.

The many counties and municipalities in Florida that have passed ordinances prohibiting light from reaching the beach can be found on the Municipal Code Corporation web site.

The FWC issues permits for activities involving marine turtles in Florida under authority granted to the state through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under Section 6 of the U.S. Endangered Species Act. All activities relating to marine turtles must be authorized under subsection 379.2431(1), Florida Statutes.

The FWC Marine Turtle Conservation Handbook provides instruction to Florida marine turtle permit holders on acceptable research and conservation techniques.

Source: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/sea-turtle/protection/

Georgia Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

It is unlawful for any person to collect any native fresh-water turtle eggs from the wild.

The following list of species native to Georgia may not be held as a pet regardless of its origin or morphology: Bog Turtle, Box Turtle (Eastern, Florida, Gulf Coast, Three-toed), Diamondback Terrapin, Gopher Tortoise, Map Turtle (Alabama, Barbour’s, Northern), Any Sea Turtle or Spotted Turtle

For the list of native turtles please check: http://www.nauti-lasscritters.com/state-georgia.html

Freshwater turtles:

No more than 10 freshwater turtles (any combination of species) may be possessed without a commercial turtle permit (for a permit application, contact the Special Permit Unit, 770-761-3044).

Any person holding a valid commercial turtle permit may acquire live native fresh-water turtles from any source or direct trapping, provided that such turtles have been lawfully taken.

There is no closed season for the harvest of freshwater turtles, however taking of species protected by federal or state law is prohibited.

There are no restrictions on fishing methods for freshwater turtles in Georgia for personal use, however methods of take must be in compliance with established fishing regulations including the labeling of equipment (see page 16 of the annual fishing regulations).

There are no firearms restrictions for the taking of freshwater turtles, however weapons used to take freshwater turtles should correspond to those designated in Code Section 27-3-4 for the taking small and large game during the respective seasons; shooting from a boat under power is prohibited.

Harvesting of freshwater turtles in private waters or from points accessed from private property (including power line, gas line, railroad and other rights-of-way) without landowners’ permission is prohibited. Written permission must be obtained if land is so posted.

Non native turtles:

It is unlawful to import live native fresh-water turtles or the eggs of such from another state unless such turtles or eggs were lawfully acquired in accordance with the laws and regulations of that state. A permit is required if the turtles were wild caught. A record of each turtle (source, age category, species, sex if known) must be retained by person receiving.

Georgia does not regulate non-native species.

Other considerations:

Harvesting turtles from State Parks and Historic Sites or Wildlife Management Areas is prohibited without obtaining written permission or a special trapping permit.

Source: https://georgiawildlife.com/turtling

Hawaii Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Non native turtles: for the most part exotic animals are illegal in Hawaii for private use.

Sea turtles:

Hawaiian green sea turtles are federally protected and it’s illegal and harmful to touch or harass them.

The green sea turtle and hawksbill sea turtle are the species most frequently observed in Hawai‘i. Three other species occur, but are very rarely seen in our coastal waters. The green sea turtle is listed as a threatened species under federal and state law.

Hawaii’s green sea turtles have shown a good population recovery in recent years, although they are still plagued with a papilloma virus that causes disfiguring tumors.

Hawksbill sea turtles, listed as an endangered species, are sighted much less frequently than greens

Source, State of Hawaii, Division of Acquatic Resources, available at: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/species/sea-turtles/

For more information on sea turtles, visit the NOAA marine turtles site and the NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office turtle site.

You can also download NOAA’s “Hawaiian Hawksbill Sea Turtles” brochure.

Idaho Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

The only native species to Idaho is Western Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta bellii

A Commercial Wildlife Facility Permit is required for any facility where the operator obtains or possesses wildlife for any commercial purposes, including exhibition, education, entertainment or sale.

No person shall buy, purchase, exchange or trade, or offer or attempt to do so, or sell, trade, barter, or offer for sale, trade, barter, or attempt to do so, any native reptile.

It is illegal to collect, harm or otherwise remove a protected non-game species from its natural habitat.

All captive wildlife in possession must be accompanied by proof that said wildlife was legally obtained. Amphibians and reptiles native to Idaho may not be sold or purchased.

There is a maximum possession limit of 4 native species

No wildlife held in captivity for any length of may be released into the wild.

Wildlife held in captivity may be disposed of by gift to another person.

Wildlife gifted to another person must be accompanied by proof that this wildlife was legally obtained.

Wildlife legally taken outside of Idaho, may be possessed and/or sold in Idaho (after import permit entry)

Other considerations:

No permit is required to keep amphibians and reptiles for non-commercial purposes.

An import permit is required to import any live wildlife into Idaho, except those considered common conventional household pets.

Wildlife imported from out of state pet stores/wildlife warehouses still require permits. The permit must be in hand before the wildlife enters Idaho.

Places where turtles are not allowed: Idaho law prohibits turtles in skilled and intermediate nursing care facilities: “Turtles are not permitted in the facility.”

Interesting link: Idaho Fish and Game

Illinois Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

It is unlawful to take, possess, buy, sell, offer to buy or sell, or barter any reptile, their eggs or parts taken from the wild in IL for commercial purposes

It is unlawful to take, possess, buy, sell, offer to buy or sell, or barter any reptile, their eggs or parts taken from the wild in IL for commercial purposes

Possession limit of legal native turtles is 8 (no more than 4 per taxa)

List of Illinois native turtles can be found at: http://www.nauti-lasscritters.com/state-illinois.html

Other considerations:

Illinois law states that businesses “shall not possess or offer for sale turtle or viable turtle eggs which would constitute a violation of Section 264 of the Public Health Service Act (42 USCA 264)

Turtles, other than Common Snapping Turtles, may be taken only by hand

A valid fishing license is required to take turtles.

The daily catch limit for common snapping turtles is 2 with a possession limit of 4. The Possession limit is of all other indigenous species is 8 collectively with no more than 4 per taxa.

It is unlawful to take, possess, transport, purchase, propogate, rehab more than 90 days or dispose of any Alligator Snapper (Macrochelys temminckii), Illinois Mud (Kinosternon flavescens), Spotted (Clemmys guttata), River Cooter (Pseudemys concinna) or Blandings Emydoidea blandingii) without a permit even if legally acquired in another state.

Other concerns:
There are no state requirements for a person possessing exotic species not defined as “dangerous animals.”

Places where turtles are not allowed:

“Live animals, including cats, dogs, birds and turtles, shall be excluded from all food preparation and dining areas.”

Interesting link: Illinois Department of Natural Resources Main Website

Indiana Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

An individual must not possess more than four (4) live turtles of any one (1) species native to Indiana without a turtle permit.

It is unlawful to release any turtle collected from Indiana unless it has been held for less than 30 days, has not been housed (caged) with other animals and is released at original site of capture.

It is unlawful to sell native turtles (including eggs, larvae, meat, shells and other parts)

Color morph specimens of Indiana’s native species may be sold if not collected from the wild.

Indiana residents over the age of 17 must have a valid hunting or fishing license to collect turtles from the wild. Collection of endangered species and box turtles is prohibited.

List of Indianas native turtles:

Non native turtles:

It is unlawful to Release any amphibian or reptile acquired outside of Indiana.

Small turtles:

It is unlawful to sell any turtle (regardless of species or origin) with a carapace less than 4 inches

Other considerations:

A person may not take, possess, transport, export, process, sell or offer for sale, or ship any Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata), Eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum), Spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata), River cooter (Pseudemys concinna), Alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) or Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii).

An individual may possess a live eastern box turtle only with a turtle possession permit

Possession limit for common snapping turtle, smooth softshell turtle, spiny softshell turtle is 50.

The common snapping turtle, smooth softshell turtle, spiny softshell turtle are regulated as game animals and have a combined daily bag limit of 25 and a possession limit of 50. There is no closed season.

It is unlawful to collect nongame turtles on all DNR properties

An individual must not take more than two (2) non-game turtles per day and not more than four (4) from April 1 through March 31 of the following year of any one (1) species of reptile or amphibian native to Indiana.

An individual may take turtles by trap, a net, or another mechanical device that has no opening below the surface of the water, hook andline, hands or gaff.

It is unlawful to take turtle eggs from the wild.

Iowa Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

A special license is required to sell live or dressed turtles.

A fishing license is required to take common snapping turtles, spiny softshells, smooth softshells, and painted turtles.

Nonresidents can only take common snapping turtles, spiny softshells, smooth softshells, and painted turtles from the Missouri, Mississippi and Big Sioux rivers.

Turtle eggs can not be taken from the wild.

Turtles can only be taken by hand, turtle hook, turtle trap or hook and line.

Non native turtles:

You cannot possess, introduce, purchase, sell, or transport aquatic invasive species in Iowa except when you are removing a species from watercraft and equipment, you catch and immediately kill or return the species to the water from which it came, or you transport the species in a sealed container for identification purposes.

More information on Iowa’s turtles:

Source: https://www.iowadnr.gov/fishing/fishing-licenses-laws/additional-regulations

Kansas Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

Unless and except as permitted by law or rules and regulations it is unlawful for any person to:

  • (a) Hunt, fish, or take any wildlife in this state by any means or manner;
  • (b) take any wildlife in this state for sale, exchange or other commercial purposes;
  • (c) possess any seine, trammel net, hoop net, fyke net, fish gig, fish spear, fish trap or other device, contrivance or material for the purpose of taking wildlife

List of Kansas native turtles:

Non native turtles:

Wildlife species which are non-migratory and are not native or indigenous to Kansas, or do not presently exist in Kansas as an established wild population, may be imported, possessed, sold, offered for sale or purchased, provided the exotic wildlife was legally captured, raised, exported, possessed, sold or purchased or any combination of these activities in its place of origin.

Such wildlife shall be confined or controlled at all times and shall not be released onto the lands or into the waters of this state.

Kentucky Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

A commercial captive wildlife permit shall be required for a person to sell, offer to sell, trade, or barter native wildlife.

A person shall not buy, sell, offer to buy or sell, or trade or barter native wildlife obtained from the wild; only captive-bred native wildlife may be commercially offered.

Up to five (5) individuals of each species of native reptile or amphibian may be taken year round from the wild, or legally obtained from a breeder, and possessed for personal use without a permit.

There is no limit on Common Snappers or Softshells

A wildlife transportation permit shall be obtained for all shipments of wildlife (native or exotic) prior to receiving a shipment of wildlife, importing wildlife into Kentucky or transporting wildlife into and through the state to a destination outside of Kentucky.

Possession of Alligator Snapping Turtles is unlawful

A person shall not possess native wildlife that was not legally acquired or buy, sell, offer to buy, offer to sell, trade or barter native wildlife obtained from the wild.

List of Kentucky’s native turtles:

Non native turtles:

A person shall not buy, sell, possess, import, or release any aquatic species not native or established in Kentucky waters, except a person may buy, sell, import, or possess aquarium species but shall not release the species into Kentucky waters

Interesting link: Kentucky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Resources Main Site

Louisiana Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

A Reptile/Amphibian Wholesale/Dealer’s License is required to buy for resale native reptiles or to transport them for commercial purposes in or out of state, whether wild caught or captive reared, regardless of generations removed from the wild or geographic origin.

All persons selling native, captive-reared reptiles or amphibians, regardless of the number of generations removed from the wild, shall be required to possess a reptile and amphibian wholesale/retail dealer’s license.

Holders of any of the above licenses may not have Alligator Snappers in their possession.

Any person buying, acquiring, or handling, from any person, by any means whatsoever, or for propagation for sale, any live species of native reptile, except farm raised aquatic turtles, in Louisiana, from within or outside the state, for sale, or resale, whether on a commission basis or otherwise, is a wholesale/retail reptile amphibian dealer and shall possess a reptile and amphibian wholesale/retail dealer’s license.

A basic fishing license is required to collect native reptiles in Louisiana. Natural habitats such as stumps or logs may not be destroyed while searching for animals. Removal of nesting or nest-tending animals is prohibited.

You must have a Reptile/Amphibian Wholesale/Dealer’s License to buy for resale native reptiles or to transport them for commercial purposes in or out of state, whether wild caught or captive reared, regardless of generations removed from the wild or geographic origin.

It is unlawful to possess a Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), Ringed map turtle (Graptemys oculifera) or any Sea Turtle

You must have a basic fishing license to collect and/or possess native reptiles in Louisiana.

You must have a Reptile/Amphibian Collector’s License to sell wild caught native reptiles to wholesalers and retailers in Louisiana.

List of Louisianas native turtles:

Non native turtles:

Non-native species do not appear to be regulated

Salmonella concerns:

Louisiana law states that “[n]o person shall receive a shipment of turtles or turtle eggs into this state through the United States mail, or by any other means, from any other state or foreign country, unless such turtles or turtle eggs are accompanied by . . . [a] health certificate issued by a duly authorized veterinarian certifying that the turtles or turtle eggs are free from Salmonella

Interesting link: Louisiana Dept of Wildlife & Fisherie

Maine Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

Turtles taken from the wild may not be sold

Aside from prohibiting the commercial take of reptiles (including snapping turtles), personal use/take is allowed and legal in Maine (exception being any species listed Endangered/Threatened).

No license is required to take non-protected turtles. However, Maine Law states that a person may not take and possess snakes or turtles from the wild for export, sale, or commercial purposes.

Blanding’s Turtle Emydoidea blandingii , Box Turtles Terrapene carolina, Spotted Turtle Clemmys guttata and Wood Turtles Glyptemys insculpta are protected

List of Maine’s native turtles:

Non native turtles:

Once importation and protected species requirements have been met, there doesn’t appear to be any additional restrictions for captive bred or exotic species as to sale, export etc.

Other considerations:

Unrestricted turtles and tortoises can be possessed, imported, sold etc. without a permit.

Unrestricted species are:

All must be min. 4 dia. and captive bred.

A Wildlife Importation Permit is required before any species not listed as “unrestricted” is transported or brought into the State of Maine.

Places where turtles are not allowed: Maine law bans turtles in micropigmentation practitioner facilities: “Live animals, including birds and turtles, shall be excluded from the establishment, and from adjacent areas under the control of the license holder.

Interesting link: Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Main Page

Maryland Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

Commercial trade in native reptiles and amphibians requires a permit. A permittee may sell, offer for sale, trade, or barter any unprotected species with a carapace length of at least 4 inches) if the animals are captively produced or legally obtained from out of state.

It is unlawful to take any Northern Map Turtle, Bog Turtle, Spiny Softshell, Wood Turtle, Spotted Turtle, Diamond-backed Terrapin or any Sea Turtle.

Breeding of turtles is allowed with a permit. A permittee may collect from the wild for breeding purposes no more than 1 individual of each:

Eastern Box Turtle, Eastern Painted Turtle, Midland Painted Turtle, Eastern Mud Turtle, Northern Red-bellied Cooter or Stinkpot

It is unlawful to sell a wild caught turtle in Maryland

A Captive Reptile & Amphibian Permit is required if you wish to breed, attempt to breed, sell, offer for sale, trade, or barter any reptile or amphibian, including color mutations, native to Maryland regardless of where you obtained it.

List of Maryland’s native turtles:

Non native turtles:

No permit is needed to possess any non-native turtle

A reptile or amphibian that has been captively produced or is not native to Maryland may not be released into the wild.

Only individuals that were taken from the wild may be released back into the wild (only at point of capture) if they have not been held in captivity with any other reptile and have not been in captivity for more than 30 days.

Small turtles:

Turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches cannot be sold in Maryland. Commercial trade of turtles less than 4 inches produced by captive breeding in Maryland with a permit is allowed outside of Maryland.

A Captive Reptile & Amphibian Permit is required if you possess turtles less than 4 inches.

Other considerations:

It is unlawful to disturb, take, destroy or possess the nest or eggs of a terrapin or snapping turtle

It is unlawful for a person to catch snapping turtles from waters of the state by hook and line, trotline, bow and arrow, net, seine, trap, fish pot, or other fishing rig, spear, gig or iron or any device capable of piercing any part of the turtle.

Without a permit, you may possess 1 each:

All turtles must be over 4″ SCL and no Wood Turtles, Spotted Turtles, or Diamond-backed Terrapins may have been taken from the wild.

It is unlawful to possess any Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica), Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii), Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera) or any Sea Turtle.

Interesting link: Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources

Massachusetts Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Massachusetts law makes it illegal to possess any turtle listed on the state and/or federal endangered species list.

Although it is legal to collect some turtle species, no turtles, including snapping turtles, can be caught and sold for food without a permit from the state.

Native turtles:

There are 10 species of turtles in Massachusetts.

They range from the tiny bog turtle, which measures 3-4” long, to the snapping turtle, which can reach up to 19” long. In addition, five sea turtles have also been found offshore or stranded on beaches.

Interesting link: Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program

Michigan Turtle & Tortoise Laws

The taking of reptiles for commercial purposes is prohibited

An all-species fishing license is required to take reptiles and amphibians for personal use.

It is unlawful to take the North American wood, Eastern box, Blanding’s turtle and Spotted turtle.

All reptiles and amphibians taken for personal use shall not be bought, sold or offered for sale.

Snapping Turtles and Softshells may only be taken July 15-Sept. 15. The daily bag limit is 2 in combination (no more than 1 of either species) and possession limit is 4 total in combination (no more than 2 of either species). Snappers must have a minimum SCL of 13″.

All other unprotected turtles may be taken all year with a daily bag limit of 2 in combination and no more than 1 of any one turtle species and a possession limit of 4 total in combination and no more than 2 of any one turtle species

Reptiles may be taken only by hand, trap, seines up to 12 x 4 feet overall dimension, hand net, or hook-and-line. Maximum number of turtle traps is 3.

Reptiles shall not be taken with a firearm (including spring, air, or gas), bow and arrow, or crossbow.

Reptile eggs may not be disturbed or removed from the wild

List of Michigan’s wild turtles:

Interesting link: Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources Main Site

Minnesota Turtle & Tortoise Laws

A person may not take, possess, buy, or transport turtles for sale; sell turtles; or take turtles for sale using commercial equipment without a turtle seller’s license. Except for renewals, no new turtle seller’s licenses may be issued after August 1, 2002.

An angling license is required to harvest turtles. A recreational turtle license, a turtle seller’s license, or a turtle seller’s apprentice license is required to use floating or submerged traps, turtle hooks, and other commercial fishing gear. Except for renewals, no turtle seller’s licenses will be issued.

Only the following species of turtles may be taken: western painted turtle (Chrysemys pica bellii), snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentine) and spiny softshell (Apalone spinifera).

A person may not take, possess, or transport turtles without a resident angling license except when buying a turtle at a retail outlet or when buying turtles for resale at a retail outlet.

A person with an aquatic farm or private fish hatchery license listing turtles as approved species can obtain, possess, transport, propagate, and sell turtles and turtle eggs.

It is unlawful to release non-native species into the wild.

The Red-eared Slider is considered an invasive species. While it is legal to possess, sell, buy, and transport them, they may not be introduced into a free-living state, such as being released in public waters.

List of native Minnesota’s turtles:

Interesting link: Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources Main Site

Mississippi Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Wild turtles:

The harvest, possession, shipment, sale and transport of turtle or tortoise eggs of any species is prohibited (40 MISS Admin. Code Part 5 Rule 2.2).

A commercial fishing license is not the proper license for the take of turtles. The harvest of non-game wildlife (including turtles, frogs, snakes, salamanders, lizards) is regulated by Rules on:

  • Endangered Species
  • Non-game Species in Need of Management
  • Turtle and Tortoise Eggs
  • Mussels

Either a Resident Sportsman’s license or Resident All Game Hunting and Freshwater Fishing License, or a Small Game Hunting and Freshwater Fishing License or a Non-Resident All Game Hunting License is required for the possession of Non-Game species for personal use.

Non-Game Wildlife or their parts taken from wild Mississippi populations may NOT be bought, possessed, transported, exported, sold, offered for sale, shipped, bartered, or exhibit it for Commercial purposes.

A person can possess no more than 20 non-game reptiles, or 20 non-game amphibians, or 4 Bluenose Shiners, with no more than 4 being the same species (not including bull frogs, alligators, and alligator snapping turtles).

Alligator Snapping Turtles: A person can only possess and harvest ONE (1) Alligator Snapping Turtle with a minimum top shell length (carapace) of 24 inches or greater per license year.

Common Snapping Turtles, Smooth Soft-shell Turtles, and Spiny Soft-shell Turtles: A person can only harvest ONE (1) turtle of the three species listed above per day.

Possession and harvest from the wild is no more than FOUR (4) turtles of the three species listed above per license year.

All other non-game turtles:

A person may possess and harvest from the wild no more than 10 other non-game turtles per license year. No more than FOUR (4) can be of the same species or subspecies.

It is illegal to harvest turtles between April 1 to June 30.

Places where turtles are not allowed or should be kept under special conditions.

Mississippi law requires confining turtles located in residential child care or child placing agencies:

“An animal that is not aggressive, but could pose a threat to the health and safety of children such as, but not limited, to lizards, snakes, and turtles, shall be routinely confined (e.g., a cage or an aquarium) in an appropriate container.”

See the list of endangered species of amphibians and reptiles that cannot be taken.

Source: https://www.mdwfp.com/fishing-boating/freshwater-commercial/turtle-information/

Missouri Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Class I Wildlife Breeder Permits allow the holder to exhibit, possess and propagate, buy and sell those animals defined as Class I wildlife.These include nonvenomous reptiles, and amphibians native to Missouri.

Only the following species are allowed with a permit:

A fishing license is required to take Common Snappers and Softshells from the wild. No license is required to take other unprotected species up to a comination limit of 5.

Common snapping turtles and soft-shelled turtles may be taken by hand, hand net, bow, crossbow, trotline, throwline, limb line, bank line, jug line, snagging, snaring, grabbing, or pole and line. Shooting turtles with firearms is prohibited. There is no closed season for Snappers.

Softshells may only be taken Jul 1 – Dec 31. Daily limit is 5 each.

Alligator Snappers are protected and may not be taken.

A maximum of five (5) specimens of any native turtle except Western Chicken turtles, Blanding’s turtles, Illinois Mud turtles, Yellow Mud turtles, Alligator Snapping turtles, common Snapping and Soft-shelled turtles may be taken alive without a permit, but these animals shall not be bought or sold.

It is unlawful to possess a Western Chicken turtle, Blanding’s turtle, Illinois Mud turtle or Yellow Mud turtle.

More than the above 5 specimens requires a Class I Wildlife Breeder permit.

Endangered wildlife taken legally outside Missouri may be imported, transported or possessed, but may not be sold or purchased without written approval of the director.

List of native Missouri turtles:

Non native turtles:

Except for federally-designated endangered species, reptiles not native to Missouri may be bought, sold, possessed, transported and exhibited without permit.

Places where turtles are not allowed: Missouri law excludes turtles from food-preparation areas in long-term care facilities: “Live animals, including birds and turtles shall be excluded from the food storage service and preparation areas.”

Interesting link: Missouri Dept. of Conservation Main Site

Montana Turtle & Tortoise Laws

List of Montana’s native species:

Noncontrolled species” are live, exotic wildlife species, subspecies, or hybrid of that species that may be possessed, sold, purchased or exchanged in the state without a permit.

An uncontrolled species may not be released into the wild.

Non-controlled species that are allowed are as follows:

Nebraska Turtle & Tortoise Laws

There are no state requirements for reptiles other than it is unlawful to possess False Map Turtles or Blanding’s Turtles.

There is a possession limit of 10 Snapping Turtles, 10 Western Painted Turtles and 3 each Yellow Mud Turtle, Ornate Box Turtle, Smooth Softshell, Spiny Softshell and Red-eared Slider.

List of native Nebraska turtles:

Nevada Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Nevada has some of the laxest wildlife laws.

It is unlawful to import or possess a Snapping Turtle or Gopher (Desert) Tortoise without a permit.

Progeny of lawfully held reptiles other than desert tortoises may, for twelve months from date of hatching or birth, be held in captivity in excess of the stated limits. Such progeny must be disposed of by gift to another person or as directed by the Department.

Desert tortoises legally held prior to April 28, 1989, may be possessed, transported and propagated. Possession limit is one desert tortoise per person.

Progeny of lawfully held desert tortoises may be held for twenty-four months from date of hatching. Such progeny must be disposed of by gift to another person or as directed by the Department

A hunting or combination license is required for take of reptiles. A fishing or combination license is required for take of softshell turtles.

Reptiles may be taken day or night. Hand held artificial light is legal. Firearms may not be used at night.

Reptiles taken from the wild for personal use may not be sold, bartered or traded.

Turtles for commercial purposes may be obtained only from a person licensed as a breeder of or dealer in that wildlife or a collection lawfully made in another state or country that allows the commercialization of that wildlife.

List of native Nevada turtles:

Non native species:

Nonvenomous, nonindigenous reptile species, and albino forms of indigenous reptile species may be possessed, sold, transported, imported and exported without a permit or license. These species must not be released into the wild.

Places where turtles are not allowed: Nevada law states that “live animals, including birds and turtles, are not allowed on the premises of a food establishment or on adjacent areas under the control of the holder of the permit for the operation of the food establishment.

New Hampshire Turtle & Tortoise Laws

The reptile and amphibian regulations do not mention commercial take or possession of reptiles. It is therefore assumed commercial activities of native species are not allowed and all the above regulations for individuals apply.

No person shall take any species of indigenous turtle from May 15 to July 15

This is what the license laws show: Freshwater Fishing Licenses: Allow the taking of all species in the freshwaters of the state. However, there is no mention of turtles in the fishing regulations. We therefore would recommend getting a fishing license just to be safe.

No person shall sell indigenous species of reptiles or amphibians including parts or eggs thereof.

A permit shall be required to import all indigenous reptiles.

It is illegal to release any exotic reptiles or any reptiles imported into the state

Reptiles originating outside of New Hampshire (including but not limited to internet and in-person purchases from water garden suppliers, reptile and amphibian distributors, biological supply companies, and pet stores importing specimens from out-of-state) must be caged or enclosed, and therefore can not be released to outdoor environments, including pools and ponds, in New Hampshire.

List of New Hampshire’s native turtles:

Interesting link: New Hampshire Fish & Game Main Pag

New Jersey Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Except for the Common Snapping Turtle, it is unlawful to take any reptile from the wild.

List of New Jersey’s native turtles:

Non native turtles:

Keeping turtles and tortoises in the state of New Jersey it is completely legal to keep and breed native and exotic species of turtles. A hobbyist permit that is obtainable from the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, is required to do so.

This includes the Eastern Box turtle, Spotted turtle, Northern Red Bellied turtle, Northern Diamondback terrapin, Red Eared slider, Common Musk turtle, Eastern Mud turtle, Northern Map turtle, Eastern Spiny Soft shelled turtle and even the threatened North American Wood turtle but excludes the endangered Bog turtle.

The Eastern painted turtle as well as the Common Snapping turtle do not not require any kind of permit to be possessed in NJ, however they cannot be taken from the wild.

Most exotic species are allowed in the state under the same permit so long as they do not appear on any federally endangered list (a separate permit from the United States Fish & Wildlife service is then required).

Residents of this state may also obtain an ANIMAL DEALER/WHOLESALE LICENSE permit from the Division of Fish and Wildlife to be able to sell turtles legally. However, turtles and tortoises CANNOT be sold WITHIN the state of NJ. All transactions must be made to individuals residing outside of the state.

Whether you are applying for just a hobbyist permit or an Animal Dealer License, you must be able to prove that the animals you are acquiring have NOT BEEN COLLECTED IN THE WILD, anywhere.

All turtles and tortoises obtained must come with a receipt to show proof that the animal came from a source where it was bred in captivity.

Small turtles and salmonella concern:

New Jersey requires that turtles four inches or larger are certified Salmonellafree:

“Live turtles of carapace length of four inches or greater shall not be sold or in any way distributed or offered for sale or distribution within the State unless the person or entity seeking to sell or distribute the turtles warrants to the satisfaction of the Department of Health and Senior Services that each shipment of turtles is free from Salmonella contamination.”

For more info please check: https://www.gardenstatetortoise.com/nj-turtle-laws

New Mexico Turtle & Tortoise Laws

It is unlawful for any person to take free-ranging, native reptiles in New Mexico for commercial purposes without purchasing and having in possession a valid commercial collecting permit. In addition, nonresidents must purchase and also have in their possession a nonresident hunting license.

.A commercial collecting permit entitles the holder to collect, sell, barter or profit from wild caught reptiles.

Any person in possession of the annual bag limit or more than the annual bag limit of wild-caught reptiles shall be deemed to possess these individuals for commercial purposes.

In addition, any person in possession of more than 50 individuals with unlimited take, shall be deemed to possess these individuals for commercial purposes.

New mexico residents are not required to have a hunting or fishing license to collect non-protected species for non-commercial purposes.

Non-residents are required to have both a non-resident hunting license and a commercial collecting permit for collecting any species.

List of New Mexico’s native turtles:

Annual bag limits for native turtles are:

  • Snapping Turtles Chelydra serpentina – 20
  • Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta – 5
  • Ornate Box Turtle Terrapene ornata – 10
  • Pond Slider Trachemys scripta – 20 (Pecos river and its tributaries – unlimited elsewhere)
  • Yellow Mud Turtle Kinosternon flavescens – 20
  • Sonoran Mud Turtle Kinosternon sonoriense – 5
  • Smooth Softshell Apalone mutica – 5
  • Spiny Softshell Apalone spiniferus – 10

Any turtle not listed is unlawful to take.

Turtles may be taken by hand, Seines, cast nets, and dip nets.

It is unlawful to take all free-ranging, native reptiles species that are Federal or State listed as threatened or endangered.

It is legal to import virtually any species with a ClassII importation permit.

Any person in possession of the annual bag limit or more than the annual bag limit of wild-caught reptiles shall be deemed to possess these individuals for commercial purposes and be required to have a commercial collecting permit.

Wild caught turtles for personal use may not be sold.

Interesting link: New Mexico Game & Fish Main Site

New York Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

The sale of all native species is prohibited.

Snapping Turtles may be taken with a hunting license, by means of a firearm or bow, from Jul 15 – Sep 30. The daily bag limit is 5 and season limit is 30. They may be taken day or night. They must have a minimum SCL of 12″. The taking of all other species is prohibited.

No person shall, at any time of the year, buy, sell, offer or expose for sale, transport, or have in his possession any native reptile protected by law, or part thereof, whether taken within the state or coming from without the state

All native species are protected except the Common Snapping Turtle.

The law does not differentiate between wild-caught and captive-bred animals or animals possessed prior to enactment of the law (2006)

It is legal to keep unprotected turtle species as pets. A permit is required to possess all non-native species that are listed as endangered or threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Non-native unprotected turtles appear to be unregulated with the exception that they may not be released into the wild.

List of New York’s native turtles:

Salmonella concern:

New York requires a warning: “The following warning must be posted conspicuously at every display of turtles for retail sale or distribution or where the public may handle turtles, unless the requirement is waived in writing by the State Commissioner of Health:

CAUTION:

Turtles may transmit bacteria causing disease in humans. It is important to wash your hands thoroughly after handling turtles or material in a turtle bowl; not to allow water or any other substance from a turtle bowl to come in contact with your food or areas where your food is prepared; and to make sure that these precautions are followed by children or others handling turtles.

Places where turtles are not allowed: New York prohibits turtles in food establishments, including in mobile food service operations: “Live animals, including birds and turtles, are to be excluded from food service operations.”

Interesting link: New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation Main Site

North Carolina Turtle & Tortoise Laws

North Carolina bans the sale of all turtles, by stating that “[n]o turtle shall be sold, offered for sale, or bartered by any retail or wholesale establishment in North Carolina.”

Native Turtles:

It is unlawful to take or possess any endangered, threatened, or special concern species at any time. They are:

All the turtles in the families Emydidae and Trionychidae are protected from collection/possession/destruction (this includes all the NC turtles except the common snapper, the two species of mud turtles, and the two species of musk turtles.)

No native turtles or terrapins shall be purchased or sold without a permit.

Possession permits are required for the possession, importation, transportation, purchase and sale of five or more individuals of native reptile species.

It is unlawful to engage in the commercial taking of any native turtle or terrapin species in the families Emydidae or Trionychidae. Commercial taking is defined as the taking, possession, collection, transportation, purchase or sale of five or more individual turtles or terrapins, or any part thereof, per person in any given year.

All turtles except Snappers, Muds and Musks are protected

Non-protected turtles (snappers, mud, and musk turtles) may be collected (trapped) and eaten if fewer than FOUR reptiles are collected

It is unlawful to engage in the commercial taking of any native turtle or terrapin species in the families Emydidae or Trionychidae. Commercial taking is defined as the taking, possession, collection, transportation, purchase or sale of five or more individual turtles or terrapins, or any part thereof, per person in any given year.

List of North Carolina’s native turtles:

Non native turtles:

There is no mention of non-native species in North Carolina regulations. It is therefore assumed they are unregulated with the exception that they may not be released into the wild.

Other issues:

No turtles, whether native or exotic, captive-bred or caught from the wild, should be released to the wild after time in captivity

Interesting link: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Main Site

North Dakota Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Current regulations in North Dakota allow two Snapping turtles per person per year, caught by hook and line only.

No person may engage in the commercial taking, trapping, or hooking of turtles without obtaining a permit from the director, who may issue the permits at the director’s discretion. The director shall designate the form of the permits, the areas or waters in which the permits are valid, and any other restrictions.

There are no state listed endangered, threatened or special concern turtles.

It appears that North Dakota does not regulate the possession, sale, importation, propagation or collection of any species other than Snappers.

List of native North Dakota’s turtles:

Interesting link: North Dakota Game and Fish Main Site

Ohio Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

It is unlawful to buy, sell, barter or trade any reptile or amphibian taken from the wild in Ohio except snapping turtles and softshell turtles.

A Noncommercial Propagating License is required for people who permanently possess native reptiles but do not intend to sell, offer for sale, trade or barter animals.

The license holder may possess an unlimited number of reptiles of which only four total individuals of each reptile or amphibian have been taken from the wild.

It is unlawful to release into the wild any reptile that is captive bred, obtained from outside the state, held in captivity for more than 30 days or held with other animals.

It isunlawful for an Ohio resident to take or possess more than 4 total individuals of each species of collectable reptiles (Snappers and Softshells) from the wild in Ohio.

A Commercial Propagating License is required for people wishing to sell, offer for sale, trade, or barter native reptiles which have been captively produced, legally obtained from out of state, or are the offspring of wild-captured animals.

With this license, the license holder may possess for sale, trade or barter an unlimited number of reptiles and amphibians that are captively produced or legally obtained, with proper documentation,

A fishing license is required to take turtles from Ohio waters.

Only snapping and softshell turtles may be legally taken. Snapping turtles and softshell turtles must have a straight-line carapace length of 13 inches or greater to be taken and there is no daily limit.

Turtle season is open July 1 through April 30.

Turtles may not be taken by shooting with a gun or crossbow, or by use of a spring or steel trap except snapping turtles and softshell turtles may be taken with standard archery equipment.

List of native Ohio’s turtles:

Non native turtles:

Ohio regulations do not appear to regulate non-native turtle species other than to forbid their release into the wild.

Interesting link: Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources Main Site

Oklahoma Turtle & Tortoise Laws

No person may possess or raise wildlife for commercial purposes without having first obtained a permit.

Regardless of whether the possession is actually for “commercial purposes,” all persons owning these animals as “pets” must obtain this particular permit.

A commercial turtle harvester license is required for legal water-dwelling turtles if the taking or possession is for commercial purposes.

No person may buy, transport out of state or export aquatic turtles from Oklahoma without having applied for and received an aquatic turtle buyer’s license.

It is unlawful to commercially take any Box Turtle, Alligator Snapping Turtle Macroclemys temminckii, Chicken Turtle Deirochelys reticularia, Map Turtle Graptemys spp., Painted Turtle Chrysemys ssp., Razor-backed Musk Turtle Sternotherus carinatus, any State and/o Federal threatened or endangered species and any soft shell turtle greater than sixteen (16) inches in length

A fishing license is required to take unprotected aquatic turtles for personal use. They may not be sold. A hunting license is required to take Box Turtles

The taking of the Western Chicken turtle, Common Map turtle and alligator snapping turtle is prohibited

The daily bag and possession limits for each species is 6. There is no closed season for unprotected species.

Turtles may be taken for personal use from all waters except the Wichita Mountains NWR is closed to turtle harvest

All soft-shell turtles greater than 16 inches front to back must be returned to water immediately

Shooting of turtles is prohibited in accordance with Federal Regulations

Any person while in the act of taking or attempting to take reptiles or possessing reptiles must first possess a hunting license, unless otherwise exempt, for land-dwelling reptiles (Box Turtles) and a fishing license, unless otherwise exempt, for water-dwelling reptiles.

Terrestrial (land) turtles may not be sold. No aquatic turtles may be sold or purchased without the proper commercial turtle harvester or buyer’s license.

It is unlawful to collect, possess, sell or purchase in Oklahoma, the Alligator Snapping Turtle, the Western Chicken Turtle and the Common Map Turtle.

Box turtles can be collected and possessed for personal use but all commercial trade is prohibited.

Possession limit for any unprotected species is 6 per species

List of Oklahoma’s native turtles:

Non native turtles:

Oklahoma law does not distinguish between native and non-native turtles. It refers to them only as land turtles or water turtles. It is therefore assumed imported non-native species fall under the same laws.

Interesting link: Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Main Site

Oregon Turtle & Tortoise Laws

There are a number of turtles that are legal to have as pets in Oregon. A list can be obtained at: Living with Wildlife, Turtles section

Native turtles:

Oregon’s two native turtles, the western painted and the western pond, are protected by law. It is illegal to take them from the wild, purchase them or keep them as pets. Both are listed on the state sensitive species list and highlighted in the Oregon Conservation Strategy as species in need of conservation.

Non native turtles:

A number of non-native turtles are illegal, because all too often they end up in Oregon’s ponds and lakes where they compete with native turtles for food and habitat and spread disease.

Red-eared sliders, named for the red “ear” (markings) on the sides of the head, are especially destructive. If you are in possession of a red-eared slider or other illegal turtle, contact your local ODFW office for advice. Never release a nonnative turtle into the wild; it hurts native habitat and species.

Small turtles:

Oregon law states that “No turtles shall be imported into the State of Oregon with carapace lengths of less than four inches except: (a) Any governmental agency; (b) Any privately financed research group; (c) Zoos and wildlife exhibits.”

Salmonella concern:

Oregon law states that “[t]he Department may take samples of turtles, tankwater or other appropriate samples from turtles sold, distributed or given away and cause laboratory examinations to be made.

In the event turtles, so sampled, are found contaminated with Salmonella the Department may order the immediate humane destruction of any or all of the lot of turtles from which the samples were obtained.”

Source: https://www.dfw.state.or.us/news/2013/march/032713.asp

Pennsylvania Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

It is unlawful for any person to possess, purchase or receive a nonindigenous or exotic reptile, without first securing a permit.

The commission may issue a permit to a person to possess a nonindigenous or exotic reptile which shall authorize the holder to purchase, receive or possess a nonindigenous or exotic reptile from any lawful source from within or without this Commonwealth.

It is unlawful to release a nonindigenous or exotic reptile into the wild

Pennsylvania incorporates the federal standard: “No person shall sell, hold for sale or offer for any type of commercial or public distribution any live turtle or lot of turtles in this Commonwealth if the sale, holding for sale or offering for any type of commercial or public distribution of such turtle or lot of turtles is prohibited by Federal statute or regulation.”

A fishing license is required to catch or take reptiles from the lands and waters of the Commonwealth.

It is unlawful to take, catch, kill or possess for the purposes of selling or offering for sale, importing or exporting for consideration, trading or bartering or purchasing an amphibian or reptile whether dead or alive, in whole or in parts, including the eggs or any life stage that was taken from lands or waters within this Commonwealth. Common Snapping Turtles may be taken for sale with a permit.

The following native reptile and amphibian species have no closed season. The daily limit is 1 and the possession limit is 1: Eastern Musk Turtle, Eastern Painted Turtle, Eastern Spiny Softshell, Map Turtle or Midland Painted Turtles

Reptiles may only be taken by hand, hook, snake tongs, turtle hooks, traps and nets less than four feet square or four feet in diameter.

It is unlawful to damage or disrupt the nest or eggs of a reptile or to gather, take or possess the eggs of any reptile

List of Pensylvania’s native turtles:

Non native turtles:

A Nonindigenous or exotic reptile or amphibian dealer permit is required for a person to engage in the commercial dealing of nonindigenous or exotic reptiles.

Salmonella concerns:

Pennsylvania law states that “[i]nstructions designating the proper care and treatment of live turtles and information from [CDC] on human salmonellosis infection associated with reptiles shall accompany each retail sale of any turtle and shall be distributed to the purchaser by the seller thereof at the time of the sale.”

Rhode Island Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

The sale of native wildlife is not allowed in Rhode Island.

The taking of snapping turtles for commercial purposes is prohibited except by special permit.

The removal from the wild, for any purpose, of any reptile, except snapping turtles, to include their nests and eggs is prohibited except by special permit.

The taking of snapping turtles at any time is limited to turtles with a minimum carapace length of 12 inches and by the following methods: Turtle traps, snagging, snaring, grabbing, jugging, bow and arrow, or while legally fishing.

All species of turtles can be kept without a permit except endangered species, the red-eared slider turtle, the Argentina or Chaco tortoise, gopher tortoise and pancake tortoises.

The following species of turtles to include their nests and eggs are protected and possession without permit is prohibited at all times: northern diamondback terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin; wood turtle, Clemmys insculpta; eastern box turtle, Terrapene Carolina; spotted turtle, Clemmys guttata; and bog turtle, Clemmys muhlenbergi.

Possession of Red Eared Slider turtles is unlawful

Other concerns:

The release into the wild of any non-native reptile is prohibited

List of Rhode Island’s native turtles:

Interesting link: Bureau of Natural Resources Division of Fish & Wildlife Main Site

South Carolina Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Currently in South Carolina there is no permit needed to harvest turtles for personal use but t is unlawful for a person, or a group of individuals traveling in one vehicle, to remove, or attempt to remove from this State more than ten, either in one species or ai combination of species, of the named species of turtles at one time with a maximum of twenty turtles of these species, either individually or in combination in any one year:

It is unlawful to possess the Bog Turtle, Gopher Tortoise or any Sea Turtle

S.C. law requires a permit for anyone to “take, possess, transport, import, expert, process, sell, offer for sale, ship or receive forshipment, any Spotted Turtle.

List of South Carolina’s native turtles:

Other concerns:

It does not appear that the South Carolina regulates the buying and selling of native species as well as non-native species for personal use

South Dakota Turtle & Tortoise Laws

South Dakota, ban the sale of all turtles. In South Dakota, “[a] person may not buy, sell, barter, or trade any species of turtle.”

Five of the seven native species are protected. It is unlawful to harvest any Blanding’s, false map, spiny softshell, smooth softshell, or ornate box turtles in South Dakota.

A Fishing or Combination Hunting/Fishing license is required to take turtles from the wild.

Daily bag limit of unprotected species is 2 per species

Possession limit is 4 per species

Turtles may be taken by hand, hook and line, seines, gaff hooks, spears or traps.

List of South Dakota’s native turtles:

Five of the seven native species are protected. It is unlawful to harvest any Blanding’s, false map, spiny softshell, smooth softshell, or ornate box turtles in South Dakota.

Interesting link: South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Main Site

Tennessee Turtle & Tortoise Laws

A Commercial Fishing License is required to sell or offer to sell turtles.

A commercial fisher with a valid commercial fishing license and a valid commercial turtle permit must be present to commercially harvest turtles from the waters of the state.

Commercial fishers can obtain a free commercial turtle permit from TWRA by written request.

Commercial fishers importing or exporting commercial turtles (or parts thereof) into or out of Tennessee must have bills of laden denoting the quantity of product, name and address of supplier, name of water body from which product was harvested, and date of import/export.

Only the common snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina serpentine, with a carapace (upper shell) length of at least (12) twelve inches, measured front to back, may be taken year-round and statewide without limit by any legal commercial fishing method.

Only at Reelfoot Wildlife Management Area, all sizes and species of unprotected turtles except the box turtle, may be taken by any legal commercial fishing method.

A sport fishing license is required and only the common snapping turtle may be taken. Turtles taken by sport fishing methods may not be sold. Shooting with any type of firearm or air gun is prohibited.

Only the Bog Turtle is on the state endangered list.

No person shall possess Class I (dangerous wildlife) or Class II (native species) wildlife without having documentary evidence showing the name and address of the supplier of such wildlife and date of acquisition.

All individuals possessing wildlife must be able to produce proof of legal ownership. Legal documentation may consist of evidence of legal importation (importation permit), purchase receipts from licensed propagation facility, or possession and/or evidence of disposition of parent animals.

It is illegal to sell or offer to sell turtles without a commercial fishing license.

List of Tennessee native turtles:

Places where turtles are not allowed:

In Tennessee, turtles are prohibited in maternity homes: “Turtles shall not be kept as pets because (a) a proper environment is elaborate and difficult to achieve and (b) they are carriers of salmonella.”

Tennessee law specifically excludes turtles in bed and breakfast food preparation areas: “No birds or turtles shall be permitted in food preparation areas.”

Tennessee law also prohibits turtles in food establishments: “Live animals, including birds and turtles, shall be excluded from within the food service operational premises and from adjacent areas under the control of the permit holder.”

Interesting link: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Main Site

Texas Turtle & Tortoise Laws

It is unlawful for any person to engage in any commercial activity involving the above mentioned list of species.

The holder of a nongame permit may possess, transport, sell, import, or export common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta), or softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera) provided that take occurs on private land or private water.

A person possessing a valid non-game permit may sell non-game wildlife only to a person in possession of a valid dealer’s non-game permit.

The holder of a nongame dealer’s permit may possess, transport, sell, resell, import, or export common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta), or softshell turtle (Apalone spinifer) provided that take occurs on private land or private water. A person possessing a dealer’s non-game permit may sell non-game wildlife to anyone.

Provided the appropriate permit has been obtained, red-eared slider, common snapping turtle, and softshell turtle may be taken from private water for commercial purposes; however, the take or possession of any other species of turtle for commercial activity is unlawful.

Any person collecting animals from the wild must possess a valid Texas hunting license.

List of Texas native turtles:

Non native turtles:

It appears that Texas does not regulate non-native species.

Interesting link: Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. Main Web Site

UtahTurtle & Tortoise Laws

The following species are prohibited for collection, possession and propagation of individuals from wild populations in Utah and prohibited for importation, possession and propagation of individuals legally obtained outside of Utah: Alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii), Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentine), Desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) and Spiny softshell (Apalone spinifera).

Except, a person may collect and possess any number of common snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina), alligator turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) or spiny softshell (Apalone spinifera) turtles without a certificate of registration provided they are either killed or released immediately upon removing them from the point of capture. All other species are considered noncontrolled.

A certificate of registration is not required to collect, import, transport, or possess any amphibian or reptile classified as noncontrolled

A certificate of registration is not required to export any species or subspecies of amphibian or reptile from Utah, provided that theamphibian or reptile is held in legal possession and importation into the destination state is lawful.

Any amphibian or reptile listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as endangered or threatened pursuant to the federal Endangered Species Act is prohibited from collection, importation, possession, or propagation.

A person may not release from captivity any amphibian or reptile without first obtaining authorization from the division

Any person who lawfully possesses an amphibian or reptile classified as prohibited or controlled may transfer possession of that amphibianor reptile only to a person who has first applied for and obtained a certificate of registration for that amphibian or reptile

A certificate of registration is required for a person to handle live amphibians or reptiles classified as prohibited for collection and possession.

A certificate of registration is required for propagating any native amphibian or reptile collected in Utah

A person may not transport a live common snapping turtle, alligator turtle or spiny softshell turtle from the point of capture from which itwas collected without first obtaining a certificate of registration

The destruction of habitats such as breaking apart of rocks, logs or other shelters in or under which amphibians or reptiles may be found is prohibited.Any logs, rocks, or other objects turned over or moved must be replaced in their original position.

A person may import and possess a live amphibian or reptile classified as non-controlled for a commercial use or a commercial venture.

However, native or naturalized species or subspecies of amphibian or reptile may not be sold or traded unless it originated from a captive-bred population.

A person may not import and possess a live amphibian or reptile classified as controlled for a commercial use or commercial venture without first obtaining a certificate of registration.

List of Utah’s native turtles:

Small turtles:

It is unlawful to sell or trade any turtle, including tortoises, less than 4″ in carapace length

Interesting link: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Vermont Turtle & Tortoise Laws

All commercial dealers in Vermont, including, but not limited to pet shop owners and all persons who import, export, and/or sell animals must first obtain a valid Dealer’s Permit.

All native species of turtles in Vermont are protected and may not be taken or possessed.

No person shall take or possess Chelydra serpentina Snapping Turtle, Chrysemys picta Painted Turtle, Clemmys guttata Spotted Turtle,Glyptemys insculpta Wood Turtle, Graptemys geographica Northern Map Turtle, Sternotherus odoratus Stinkpot (Eastern Musk Turtle) or Apalone spinifera Spiny Softshell except when exempted by permit for scientific, educational or conservation purposes

Any person within the state of Vermont interested in purchasing, importing, or possessing a pet or animal must determine whether that pet or animal species first requires an Importation and Possession Permit from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. Only captive bred turtles on the following list do not require a permit:

All other species require a permit.

All captive bred only species must be accompanied by a statement of origin or certificate of veterinary inspection identifying the business of origin and the number of individual animals imported to the individual/business.

Individuals, educational institutions, or research facilities seeking to import or collect animals for the purposes of education or bona fide research must first obtain a Scientific Collection Permit.

Individuals conducting any research or field activity that may result in the pursuit, capture, disturbance, handling, injury, death, or importation of any State threatened and endangered species are required to first obtain an Endangered Species Permit.

Any person breeding and propagating wild animals must obtain from the commissioner a license to do so; unless the species is listed as a domestic bird or animal, domestic pet, or unrestricted wild animal.

List of Vermont’s native turtles:

Interesting link: Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Main Site

Virginia Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

It is illegal to sell or purchase any turtle species that are native or naturalized in Virginia, but they may be given away and kept as pets, as long as the person has no more than five individuals of that species in captivity.

Also, there is a ban on collecting northern diamond-backed terrapins, spotted turtles, and eastern hellbenders (even though these species are not theatened or endangered, there is a specific regulation banning their collection).

It is lawful to collect and possess live for private use only, and not for sale, no more than 5 individuals of any unprotected species of amphibian and reptile.

Taking turtles by hook and line requires a fishing license

It is illegal to sell or purchase any turtle species that are native or naturalized in Virginia, but they may be given away and kept as pets, as long as the person has no more than five individuals of that species in captivity

It is illegal to relocate, or liberate, turtles in Virginia

Albino reptiles and amphibians may be imported, possessed, and sold.

It is unlawful to possess any endangered or threatened species. Virginia species falling under that category are: wood turtles, bog turtles, chicken turtles and all Sea Turtles.

List of Virginias native turtles:

Non native turtles:

Turtle species that are not native or naturalized in Virginia, and are not federally listed as threatened or endangered, may be sold or purchased, either on your own or through a pet store.

Other concerns:

It is illegal to relocate, or liberate, turtles in Virginia, 4VAC15-30-10).

If you see a turtle in your yard, even if you are not near water, this is not something to be alarmed about. Aquatic turtle species will travel quite far from water, up to a mile in some cases, to find a place to lay eggs.

The best thing to do for any turtle you see in a yard is to leave it alone. They instinctively know what direction to go when they are on their own. Relocating them will cause them to search for where they were headed and create more hazards.

Also, many of the turtles out in the spring are females moving to their nesting grounds. By picking up these turtles, not only are you removing the adult from the population, but her babies as well.
◦ On top of it, relocation of wildlife is illegal in Virginia. Virginia regulations allow you to return a turtle to the wild, ONLY if the following criteria are met:

  1. The captured reptile or amphibian is released within 30 days of capture
  2. The animal is released only at the exact location where it was captured
  3. The animal was not housed with any other reptiles or amphibians during its time in captivity
  4. The animal is not displaying any signs of illness or injury.
  5. Also, if the turtle you capture does lay eggs, you need to be aware of another part of the Virginia regulation that states you can collect and keep for personal use, no more than five individuals of any single species of reptile or amphibian. There could be as many as 20 to 30 eggs, which if all hatch, would put you well over the limit you are legally allowed to collect and keep.

If you have a pet turtle which is a native or naturalized species that you have had for some time and no longer are able to or want to keep it, there are very few options.

You may call local nature centers and similar facilities to see if they can take them in as program/exhibit animals.

Or, you can contact a reptile rescue group, such as Virginia Reptile Rescue to see if they can help find a home for the turtle.

Depending upon the species, finding a home for the turtle may be difficult. Most nature centers are too full of turtles, particularly box turtles, red-eared sliders, and other common water turtles.

If you cannot find a home for the turtle then it would need to be humanely euthanized. It cannot be released into the wild unless it meets the criteria stated above in bold.

For more information on turtles, visit the Virginia Herpetological Society website.
Source: https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/nuisance/turtles/

Interesting link: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Main Site

Washington Turtle & Tortoise Laws

It is unlawful to take live wildlife from the wild without a permit issued by the director. It is unclear as to what permit is required for turtles. The issue however, may be mute as all of Washington’s native turtles are either protected or banned from possession.

The following species may not be possessed, imported, purchased, sold, propagated, transported, or released into state waters.

All members of the family Chelydridae, snapping turtles, all species

All members of the genus Chinemys, Reeves etc

All members of the genus Clemmys, Spotted, Wood & Bog Turtles

Emys orbicularis European Pond Turtle

All members of the genus Mauremys, Asian Pond Turtles

All members of the genus Apalone, Softshells

The unlawful use of a prohibited aquatic animal species is a gross misdemeanor. A second violation within five years is a class C felony.

It is unlawful to release any species into the wild

It is against the law to transport live fish or live wildlife without a perm

List of Washington’s native turtles

Interesting link: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Main Site

West Virginia Turtle & Tortoise Laws

Native turtles:

It is unclear if a Fishing License is required to take turtles. However, there are bag limits and collection dates shown in the fishing regulations. Therefore, we assume a license would be required.

The following species may not be taken: Spotted Turtle, Wood Turtle, Northern Map Turtle, Ouachita Map Turtle, River Cooter and Northern Red-bellied Cooter plus any federally protected species.

Turtles may be taken only between January 1 and May 15 and July 15 and December 31.

The state only regulates species native to the state. A person possessing a native animal in captivity as a “pet” must obtain a permit.

List of West Virginia’s native turtles:

Non native turtles:

There are no state laws governing private possession of exotic animals.

Turtle species that are not native or naturalized in Virginia, and are not federally listed as threatened or endangered, may be sold or purchased, either on your own or through a pet store.

Other considerations:

It is unlawful to sell turtles or turtle parts in West Virginia.

Places where turtles are not allowed:

In West Virginia childcare facilities, “[l]ive animals, including birds and turtles, shall be excluded from food preparation, storage and serving areas, and in-use dining areas.”West Virginia law further states that childcare centers “shall not have on the premises ferrets, birds, reptiles, including snakes, lizards and turtles, or any wild or dangerous animals.”

Additionally, West Virginia bans turtles in pre-K classrooms: “A WV Pre-K classroom shall not have on the premises ferrets, birds, reptiles, including snakes, lizards and turtles, or any wild or dangerous animals

West Virginia law states that “[l]ive animals, including birds and turtles, shall be excluded from food preparation, storage, and serving areas and in in-use dining areas”56 in “all institutions and schools, care facilities, lodging facilities, recreational facilities, and public restrooms.

Interesting link: West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Main Site

Wisconsin Turtle & Tortoise Laws

The sale of live native turtles collected in Wisconsin is not allowed.

Residents and nonresidents may possess and exhibit non-native herptiles for commercial purposes without any Department of NaturalResources license.

Residents and nonresidents may exhibit but not sell native herptiles, at commercial exhibits, such as swap meets, but ONLY under the authority of

Class A or Class B Captive Wild Animal Farm or Nonresident Temporary Exhibitor’s License.

Residents holding a Commercial Fishing License may harvest turtles on Wisconsin/Mississippi Boundary Waters. These licenses are available only to residents.

A captive wild animal farm license authorizes the holder to possess, propagate, kill, exhibit, purchase and sell live captive wild animals of the species specified by the department on the license but does not authorize taking, capturing or killing animals from the wild.

All animals must be obtained from a legal captive source. The licensee may only sell live animals of the species listed on the license to persons authorized to possess these species.

A class A captive wild animal farm license allows and is required to sell any native reptile or amphibian taken or reared outside Wisconsin.

Native reptiles and amphibians taken or reared outside of Wisconsin may only be sold to individuals or businesses outside of Wisconsin or to educational or research institutions located in Wisconsin

Any person who collects, attempt to collect, or possesses native Wisconsin aquatic turtles must possess a Fishing, Small Game or specialty license

State or federally protected species may not be taken.

The open season for aquatic turtles runs from July 15 through November 30. Turtles or turtle eggs may not be taken or collected during the closed season.

No native herptile with open season may be collected or possessed dead or live in Wisconsin above the legal possession limits (see limits above under Possession) without a Scientific Research License or a Class A Captive Wild Animal Farm License.

Turtles may be taken by hand, dip net, hook and line, set line, set or bank poles, hooking, or hoop net trap.

A person may collect or possess up to 5 individuals of each native herptile species that are not protected except the possession limit for snapping turtles, Chelydra s. serpentina, and softshell turtles, Apalone sp., is 3 statewide. The one exception is on the Mississippi River, where the possession limit is 10 for snapping turtles and 5 for softshell turtles.

There are no possession limits or restrictions for residents or nonresidents for nonnative herptiles.

It is unlawful to possess: Ornate box turtle, Terrapene o. ornata, Blanding’s turtle, Emydoidea blandingii, Wood turtle, Clemmys insculpta or any federally protected species.

Native herptiles not listed as endangered or threatened may be sold without a license if it has an atypical color or an atypical pattern

The sale of live native turtles collected in Wisconsin is not allowed

List of Wisconsin’s native turtles:

Interesting link: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Wyoming Turtle & Tortoise Laws

All reptiles (excluding any that are endangered or threatened), may be imported, possessed, confined and/or transported without securing a permit as long as they are held in compliance with appropriate Commission regulations and Wyoming Statute

It is unlawful to release any reptile into the wild

The Ornate Box Turtle Terrapene ornata ornata is state protected.

No person shall take nongame wildlife for commercial use

List of Wyoming’s native turtles:

Interesting site: Wyoming Fish and Game main site

7. Is it legal to keep turtles as pets? Situation in Canada

Under provincial and federal law, it is illegal to keep a wild animal (both, animals found wild in Canada and those exotic in Canada but wild to other countries), as designated under the BC Wildlife Act, as a pet.

Very rarely, the provincial government issues permit for the personal possession of wild animals.

However, what can’t be kept as a pet in Canada often changes from province to province. Many cities also have exotic animal bylaws that make it illegal to keep some or all exotic pets.

Specifically speaking about turtles, the commercial importation of live turtles as pets is prohibited under the Health of Animals Act. Live turtles may be imported into Canada for zoos, scientific and educational purposes, and only with permits issued by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Permits may be issued for importation for personal purposes, but they are usually limited to pets that have been in the possession of their owners for some time before travelling or moving to Canada.

Even if imports are prohibited, illegal importation exists and the ancestry of most captive-bred turtles in Canada is likely to trace back to specimens that originally entered the country illegally.

In what has to do with turtles ownership the legalities is defined at the provincial level and depends on the precise species, mainly around whether the species is “at risk”. There are separate federal and provincial laws that cover this.

The Federal law is called the Canadian At Risk Species Act, 2002. Section 32 states:

No person shall kill, harm, harass, capture or take an individual of a wildlife species that is listed as an extirpated species, an endangered species or a threatened species.

No person shall possess, collect, buy, sell or trade an individual of a wildlife species that is listed as an extirpated species, an endangered species or a threatened species, or any part or derivative of such an individual.

The federal government’s species list (available on their web site) currently lists a number of turtles:

The Pacific Pond Turtle is listed as extirpated, meaning that the government believes that this species is probably now extinct within Canada but may be found elsewhere.

8. Is it legal to keep turtles as pets? The situation in the UK

In the UK all of the native species of reptiles receive some degree of protection through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
There have been two alterations to the Schedules to this Act which have increased the level of protection since it was originally passed (these occurred in 1988 and 1991).

There are three different levels of protection afforded to reptiles through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; this results from different parts of Section 9 of the Act applying to the different species (as specified in Schedule 5).

Existing laws are based primarily on public safety or conservation reasons, not welfare grounds. However, there is the Animal Welfare Act under which owners must meet their exotic animal’s needs. Also, cruelty and ill-treatment of animals are prohibited.

Intensive trade, combined with habitat destruction, resulted in dramatic declines in turtle numbers during the 1970s. Fears that the trade was unsustainable led to a 1984 European Union (EU) ban on the commercial import of certain protected species.

It is now illegal in the UK to import or sell live wild-caught protected species of tortoises or products made from them without a permit for commercial purposes. Breeders can sell only captive animals bred from parental stock in their care. New-born animals must be identified with a microdot and adults with a microchip or other appropriate method.

Licenses in the UK:

It is an offence to import, buy or sell most species of tortoise without a licence or certificate in the UK.

An Article 10 Certificate is required from Defra to deal with CITES-listed species-endangered species (buying, selling, or displaying to paying customers).

To keep a wild animal in captivity, a UK resident may need a license (https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/wildlife/captivity/licences).

Licenses mostly relate to conservation rather than animal welfare and many are linked to further legislation or international conventions.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Natural Resources Wales administer most licenses in England and Wales. If you’re unsure whether you need a license, it’s best to ask them.

Other regulations in the UK

Scientific research is controlled by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and this prevents activities such as toe-clipping unless licensed by the Home Office.

Sales of products made from marine turtles are restricted by the EC Regulation no. 3626/82 which implements the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) in the European Union.

9. Is it legal to keep turtles as pets? Situation in Australia

Being one of the 17 mega-diversity countries, Australia is known for its herpetological diversity, with at least 917 recognized reptile species and approximately 93% endemism (Mittermeier and Mittermeier, 2004; Chapman, 2009).

In Australia, the trade and keeping of reptiles is regulated on a state-by-state basis, and the laws are subject to change.

In most instances, licenses must be applied for before a reptile is obtained, and records must be kept, with annual returns required.

All reptiles must be acquired from a legitimate source, and there are constraints as to which species can be kept, and in what circumstances. The following prompts lead to the relevant wildlife agencies for each state and territory: NSW, VIC, QLD, SA, ACT, WA, NT, TAS.

All reptiles, including turtles, are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. It is legal to own a turtle in Australia except in the states of Tasmania and Western Australia.

In most states and territories, you must obtain a license from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) first. The exceptions to this rule are the ACT and South Australia.

It is illegal in all states to take a turtle from the wild. This law has been enacted in order to protect them from the threat of extinction. In New South Wales, it is illegal for turtles to be sold in pet shops or advertised for sale by private parties.

This makes obtaining a turtle problematic, but has been done in order to help the NPWS keep track of their numbers and maintain control over their dissemination.

The export of wildlife is strictly regulated under the nation’s key environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which was enacted in July 2000. Commercial export of native animals may only be permitted for dead specimens from approved sources. No export of live reptiles is permitted.

Interesting links:

Conclusion

The keeping and trading of turtles is heavily regulated. Major concerns are issues of public health and safety, animal welfare, protectionism of endangered species, and ecosystem preservation.

Owning a turtle can be a very rewarding experience; just bear in mind that turtles are special creatures that require special handling and a degree of commitment. We encourage the responsible and sustainable keeping of turtle pets by private persons.

About the author

Brock Yates

Brock Yates has a passion for educating people about turtles & tortoises. He manages several websites and has a goal of getting everyone the best and most accurate information to help them with their turtle & tortoise care.

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