Can I release my box turtles and painted turtles back to the wild?

I have been searching about painted turtles and I read your web site what helped a lot. I found a baby painted turtle in my backyard about 2 1/2 months ago. I put him in 10 gallons aquarium (that was available) with an UVB lamp, a heater on the bottom of the aquarium (75 degree) and a common lamp (40w) for basking. He took about 2 months to start to eat, but about two weeks ago he started to devour everything that I put in his little bowl. He loves Reptomin pellets and green leaves.

I have passion for turtles and I keep 15 box turtles – 8 adults that I found crossing roadways and highways and others just showed up in my backyard. 5 of them are serious injured, like blind, missing legs, missing foot, broken shell or had severe eye infection when I found them. 7 of them are babies that born in the backyard last September/2006, and now I found this semi-aquatic painted turtle. I really can’t sleep at night thinking about all my babies.

Can I release the box turtles when they reach youth, like 4 or 5 years old in a safe place? Do they survive without me to feed them every day? And my baby painted turtle? Can I do the same? Can he survive by himself if I put him in a pond with other turtles of the same specie when he reach 4 or 5 years old? It really breaks my heart only thinking about the possibility of put them in the wild.  All my turtles are very special and each one has a different and dramatic story. I want to help to preserve the specie, but I don’t want my turtles dying because they will not be able to find food or water.

Painted Turtle

The juvenile painted turtle you collected will probably do fine if released in the same spot near your home where you found it. It is true it may be accustomed to captive conditions but since it has not been in captivity for more than a few months I suspect it will be alright if released where it was found.

Box Turtles

The box turtles are more complicated. The question is whether or not they will be able to find enough food now that they are used to a captive diet. If the turtles have been fed a prepared pellet diet for years it may be risky to release them, however since they live outdoors, were collected locally, and may hunt and graze on their own along with food you offer there is a good chance they too will do okay if released. It really depends on how they have been kept since you collected them.

It is important to only release the box turtles where they were found and not somewhere else, even if the area looks like good habitat. They also should be released in the spring after winter. They will need time to adjust to the wild and put on weight before hibernation and if they are released in the fall they may not have enough time to adjust.

What To Do?

I would recommend contacting your local department of natural resources. They will have the advice you need. They will also be able to provide information about local laws and regulations before releasing the turtles.

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