Owning a red-eared slider turtle without a permit from Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is now illegal in Montana. These turtles, named for the little red markings on their heads, have been popular as pets and purchased from pet stores for many years. Unfortunately, too many owners have regretted their decision and released their turtles into the wild. Due to their adaptability and omnivorous diet, these turtles have the ability to edge out native species. In fact, they are listed among the top 100 most invasive species in the country.
The Humane Society of the United States is working on a relocation project for many of the sliders currently living in Montana. These turtles will be collected and driven to Burro Lake in Texas. Included in this project is an offer to relocate any turtles currently being kept as pets to prevent them from being released into the wild. Surrendered turtles from all over the state are being taken care of- and taught to swim in ponds, catch food, and be wild- in Billings by Humane Society Wildlife Capture and Field Project Specialist Dave Pauli. In October, they and the many sliders captured from local waters, will make the trip to Texas.
What does this all mean to Montana turtle owners? If you have owned your turtle prior to July of this year, you may keep it so long as you obtain a permit. Unregistered turtle owners can be fined $100. You have the option of surrendering your turtle to avoid any issues. If you have questions, or a turtle, contact Stafford Animal Shelter at 406/222-2111 or the Billings office of HSUS directly at 406/255-7161.