DEEP: DEP Reminds Residents It Is Illegal to Possess and Collect Certain Native Connecticut Turtles

May 3, 2011
 
DEP Reminds Residents It Is Illegal to Possess and Collect Certain Native Connecticut Turtles
2011 Is the Year of the Turtle

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as part of its Year of the Turtle awareness campaign with Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC), reminds citizens that it is illegal to possess and collect certain native Connecticut turtles.

Native turtles should never be kept as pets. Whether collected singly or for the pet trade, turtles that are removed from the wild are no longer able to be a reproducing member of a population. Every turtle removed reduces the ability of the population to maintain itself. Even if you believe you are removing a turtle from a dangerous situation or saving it by taking it to a nature center, STOP Ė and remember, from the overall populationís perspective, any turtle removed from the wild is a dead turtle.

PARCís "State of the Turtle" report estimates that since 2000, 12-20 million turtles per year were shipped from the United States.  Although many of these came from U.S. turtle farms (turtles sometimes can be successfully farmed to meet commercial demand), some also came from the wild. Compounding this problem, wild turtles often have more value than farmed turtles in some markets, and illegal, or "black market," trade of turtles, including rare and highly threatened species, continues to increase. There is a growing concern that commercial demand is adversely affecting North American wild turtle populations.

"It is illegal to take bog turtles, diamondback terrapins, wood turtles, and Eastern box turtles out of the wild in Connecticut," said Rick Jacobson, Director of the DEP Wildlife Division. "Collecting even one turtle, in any developmental stage, can reduce the population." Current regulations restricting the take of these four turtles in Connecticut were established in an effort to stop the decline in their populations (www.ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/regulations/26/26-66-13through14.pdf). The bog turtle, Eastern box turtle, and wood turtle also are protected by Connecticutís Endangered Species Act.

The state endangered bog turtle is the rarest turtle in Connecticut. Intensive development pressure in all portions of this turtleís range has resulted in the loss and fragmentation of bog turtle habitat. The illegal capture of bog turtles has been encouraged by the pet trade in many areas of the country and can only be effectively stopped by reducing the demand for these turtles as pets.

Box turtles were once common throughout the state, but their distribution is now spotty. Because of the population decline, the box turtle was added as a species of special concern to the state's List of Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern Species when it was revised in 1998. Wood turtles can be found throughout the state, but they have become increasingly rare due to their complex habitat needs and fragmentation of their habitat by urban development. The main threats to box turtles and wood turtles are loss and fragmentation of habitat due to deforestation and spreading suburban development; vehicle strikes on the busy roads that bisect the landscape; and indiscriminate and illegal collection of individuals for pets.

Diamondback terrapins were a popular gourmet food in the early 1900s. Their numbers declined due to unregulated harvesting and habitat loss through coastal development. During the nesting season, many females are killed as they attempt to cross coastal roads in search of nesting areas.

"If you care about turtles, leaving them in their natural habitat is best," stated Jacobson. The DEP Wildlife Division wants people to appreciate and learn about the turtles that live in our state and throughout the world. You can learn about turtles by visiting the DEPís "Year of the Turtle" Web page at www.ct.gov/dep/yearofturtle, as well as subscribe to the Wildlife Divisionís Connecticut Wildlife magazine (www.ct.gov/dep/wildlifemagazine). You also can visit PARCs Web site at www.yearoftheturtle.org.