Turtles are very difficult to care for as pets, having complex dietary and lighting requirements. Many people don’t realize how long they will live or how big the turtles will get. Red-eared Sliders, the most common species sold as a pet, can live for over 40 years and grow to about a foot in length. A full grown slider will require a much larger pond than the small aquarium you buy to house it as a hatchling. Many species of turtle and tortoise can grow even larger or live much longer.
Properly cared for a pet turtle or tortoise may outlive its owner!
If you are serious about adopting turtles be sure to carefully research the turtle’s needs. The care for each different turtle or tortoise species varies greatly. Care books and guides are often dated and inaccurate – there have been tremendous advances made in reptile husbandry in the past few years. Even the most helpful store clerk can not possibly tell you everything you need to know about your turtle in a five-minute conversation! Check out the Tortoise Trust website for well-researched articles and information on turtle husbandry and conservation.
Don’t shop… adopt!
If you are ready for a life-long commitment and must buy a pet turtle, please consider adopting animals from others unable (or unwilling) to care for them. Contact a re-homing organization such as Little RESQ.
Contact a vet if your pet is sick
Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre is licensed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to provide care to the wild turtles of Ontario. While we have a hospital and veterinary staff, we are not licensed to care for pet animals of any kind (including turtles). As a result, please contact a private veterinary hospital if your pet turtle is sick. Visit the Canadian Reptile Veterinarian Listing, or the College of Veterinarians of Ontario online, to search in your area for pets who treat reptiles.
While habitat loss and road mortalities remain the largest overall threat to Ontario’s turtles, it is thought that poaching for the pet trade has been devastating to some species, such as spotted turtles wood turtles and Blanding’s turtles. Never take a turtle (or any wild animal for that matter) home with you; not only is this illegal in Ontario, but it is also very damaging to wild turtle populations.
Turtles such as red-eared sliders are not native to Ontario, and releasing them into the wild can cause huge problems for our own native turtles. These non-native species often carry diseases that can be deadly to our own turtles. Also, the competition they present is also very detrimental to Ontario’s turtles. Many pet turtle species live in a warmer climate than Ontario’s turtles, and won’t survive in our temperature zone. Sliders do survive, however, and have even been shown to breed in the wild in Ontario. Our turtles don’t need another threat, so please re-home instead of release!