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DNR: Don't Release Pet Turtles Into The Wild

MINNEAPOLIS(WCCO) – The Minnesota DNR is asking the owners of unwanted turtles and other animals to find their pets "forever homes," places where the animals can be cared for and watched after for the rest of their lives.

Owners are advised not to release the animals – even if they are a species native to Minnesota – into the wild. The pets may harbor diseases that could be potentially harmful to them, or other wildlife, following their release, the DNR said in a press release Tuesday.

Instead, pet owners are advised to give unwanted animals to educators, naturalists or state parks. Another option is to give them to local humane or nonprofit societies, like the Minnesota Herpetological Society. (For help figuring out where an unwanted animal should go, head over the DNR website.)

This heads-up to the public is a response to the global trade in wildlife, which the DNR says has led to "a wide variety of animal species being bought and sold for pets at local shops and online." One of the animals most commonly sold is the Red-eared Slider turtle.

The Red-eared turtles, which are not native to Minnesota, are often purchased as cute hatchlings, said DNR nongame wildlife biologist Christopher Smith. They then grow quickly in captivity and require a large space to roam, which can be difficult in the winter.

If released into the wild, Smith said, the Red-eared may compete with Minnesota's native turtles, like the Blanding's turtle, for food, nesting sites and basking areas.

"People want to do right by the turtle and decide to set it free," Smith said. "[H]owever, animals maintained in captivity should not be released back into the wild."

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