DogsCatsFish & AquariumsReptiles & AmphibiansRodentsRabbitsExotic PetsBirdsFarm Animals as Pets

Releasing My Turtle Back into the Wild: The Controversy

Updated on February 12, 2013

It all started a year and a half ago in late October when my brother and his friend went to our local lake and witnessed newborn turtles popping up from the ground, heading for the lake's shore. My brother and his friend also took witness to the babies getting eaten by large bass waiting for them in the water. My brother's friend caught one before it could reach the shore, saving its life and thinking it would make an excellent pet. For his first week of life, my turtle was kept in a one gallon milk jug in shallow water. My brother's friend kept throwing odd foods (like bread of all things) into the water, but my turtle did not eat a thing; I wonder why? Thinking it was probably going to die (the man didn't even own a tank), he decided to pass it along to his friend's sister (me) because I am an animal nut.

I had no clue about this animal when it was handed off to me. It was a unique turtle and I had planned to keep it for only a week before placing him back to his natural habitat. Well, during that time, the temperature outside dropped significantly and winter showed up. So releasing him into icy waters was not an option for me. Deciding to keep him through the winter and release him in the spring, I did my research, made lots of errors, learned my mistakes, and created the perfect habitat for my baby softshell turtle with all of his necessities. I knew everything I needed to know about him.

So why did I not release him once spring came? The little guy barely grew, and I figured it was my fault for the mistakes I had made, and justified keeping him until midsummer so he wouldn't be such an easy appetizer for those merciless bass. And he did grow a little bit more, but not as large as I had hoped. Even though I did not plan to keep him for another winter, I just couldn't let him go, thinking he was still too small and easy prey.

Now that he has reached four inches in width and summer is officially here, I plan to release my turtle back to his natural habitat for good.

But wait! There is apparently something controversial about my plan. Apparently, a lot of people think it is cruel to release a turtle back to the wild after being kept as a pet for so long. I'm pretty amazed that so many people feel this way, although I wonder how many people who make these claims actually know a great deal about reptiles. The majority of these objections come from forums like Yahoo Answers, YouTube comments, opinions I would not trust when it comes to scientific/veterinarian questions.

Let's get one thing out of the way. I completely agree that a store-bought turtle or a non-native turtle should not be released into the wild, even if the environment simulates his natural environment. Pet store turtles most likely carry a disease and can affect native turtles and the entire ecosystem. Never release a turtle if it is not from the area; there is no exception to this.

But my turtle is native and he's still very young, yet I hear objections about people in the same situation as I am. So I am going to address the opposition's claims and give my two cents about them.

Your turtle will give other turtles diseases it normally would not have contracted in the wild.

This would make sense if we were talking about a store-bought turtle or a turtle that was kept in really poor living conditions. Why did I include store-bought turtles? Because there is a risk of a pet turtle getting a disease from another pet turtle, but this can only happen if my turtle has come in contact with others, and it has not. It has lived a solitary life so far and has been kept in a clean habitat. This leads me to the next dilemma.

Your turtle's immune system is down, because it has not been exposed to common bacteria found in the wild. He is prone to get sick and possibly die.

I agree with this, well to a degree. In order to have low immune system, my turtle would have to be unhealthy and I can safely say that is not the case. My turtle should have a very good immune system according to his behavior, his physical appearance, and the nutrition I have been giving him. But I do understand what this claim is saying. I clean my aquarium frequently and so my turtle is not exposed to much bacteria as a wild turtle. There's still bacteria in aquarium water, but not near at the same level as lake or pond water.

My solution to this problem?

I am slowly exposing my turtle to this lake water every four days. Visiting his birthplace and getting scoop-fulls of water, I am gradually subtracting his regular water and adding the water of his future home simultaneously. I will keep adding until it is nothing but lake water, while observing his behavior closely for any changes. It's already well over half of his water and there have been no changes in his behavior at all. I'm sure I'm going through all this trouble for nothing and if I had just taken him from the aquarium water to lake water, he would have been okay. But I would rather play it safe and get him used to the water beforehand.

You have a domestic turtle now and he won't last long in the wild. He won't know how to evade predators, search for other means of food, and survive the winter because he has spent his life in a glass box.

I completely disagree with this claim. Turtles (and reptiles for that matter) are not like owls, bears, and cats. Turtles are not taught to hunt or evade. Their mothers are long gone before they bust out of their eggs and they are all on their own. That is the neat thing about reptiles, their survival is based solely on inborn instincts.

The phrase "domestic turtle" sounds funny to me because I've never felt that way about owned turtles, but this all depends on a person's definition of the word "domestic" (and yes, there are different definitions, or different ideas of what this word means for animals). Sure, a turtle can beg for food, can even follow people on land for food, but does that make it domesticated? It lives in a human-controlled environment, but is that going to take away a turtle's instincts? As far as I'm concerned, all turtles are wild and while most get to live in their natural environment, some are placed in a simulated environment (if lucky) and they simply recognize when food is available. Adult turtle brains are not that different than baby turtle brains, except as adults they become predators while babies are usually prey. So babies need to be able to bury themselves instantly (for softshells), and I'm happy to say my turtle is an expert on that.

My turtle does not fear me when he's in his aquarium or outdoor pool, but when I go to grab him, he acts like I'm about to eat him. Unless I have food, he stays away from me and that's the way it should be. Turtles don't know what the human being is; all they know is if this recognizable giant shows up in front of the glass, half the time these pellets magically appear. And this is only in his aquarium; I can't get him to trust me at any other location with pellets.

For two weeks now I have stopped feeding him pellets, preparing him (if it's really necessary) for the wild. He has guppies and ghost shrimp as prey. If he's hungry enough, he will catch them and eat them. For the sake of a varied diet, I will occasionally throw in a bug, an algae chip (which is good because the lake has plenty of algae to eat) and frozen dead blood worms that thaw out by the time he gets to them. I was concerned to find out the lake does not have guppies, but I'm sure there are tons of other little aquatic animals he'd be able to catch between rocks and under the dirt/sand. I imagine most of his food will be from scavenging for dead things rather than catching live prey--they do a lot of that when they get older, and it's evident those turtles are surviving on something out there, so I'm not worried.

I don't think people give turtles much credit. I find it amazing any of them survive at all after birth. Once the lucky few reach a certain size, they become the predators and they can live very long lives (much longer than a captive turtle, lifespan-wise).

I am very confident my turtle will do well in the wild. His arms have slimmed down a little since I've ended his pellet diet, but that's because he's been more active in his aquarium now, searching for food rather than waiting for me to appear. He's still eating and acting healthy, and on his last day I plan to give him some pellets just to hold him out for a while in the wild.

I love my turtle and I know this is the right thing to do for him. It's really hard because I have put so much effort into ensuring his safety and health. But I can't keep him forever; I hadn't planned to. And there will always be a what-if to his whereabouts and if I did do the right thing. What comforts me is knowing that without my brother's friend, he would have lived to be 10 seconds old like the rest of his siblings. And if it wasn't for me, he would have died three to four months later in that milk jug. Most turtles don't get to be one and a half years old; most of them don't make it past their first winter. I've done everything I can and now it's time to say goodbye.

Remember, never release a turtle in the wild if it's from somewhere far away or it was bought. But if it is native, prepare it for the wild and let him or her go back to where they belong.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 5 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Voted up. I think you took very good care of your turtle. Letting him experience freedom is a very loving thing to do. Good luck.

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 5 years ago

      Thank you very much.

    • Dottie Roseboom profile image

      Dottie Roseboom 5 years ago from Peoria, Illinois

      Big hugs to both you & your turtle. Wonderful article!

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 5 years ago

      Thanks Dottie!

    • Cellwood 5 years ago

      Fellow turtle lover here! You've gone above and beyond ... and the little guy will be just fine!

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 5 years ago

      Thanks, I hope he'll be fine. Nature can be so cruel, but it's where he belongs.

    • Pam 4 years ago

      I am in the same position - so I was happy to read your post. We got our Eastern Painted when he was about the size of a quarter! He is now 2 years old and quite healthy;like you, I hesitate to 'let him go' fearing for the worst...but your point is well saved yours from certain death, and I'm sure that now quite big, (yours did) he will do just fine. He knows how to catch minnows, spiders, beetles, and flys on his own, but LOVES the pellets! Ours will be launching very soon, and I feel much better about it after reading your post :)

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 4 years ago

      Thank you Pam, this is the kind of thing I want to hear. This is why I write these. You just made my day!

    • mateodemysterio 4 years ago

      great story you convinced me too

    • chris 4 years ago

      i am stuck in the same situation.. but i just cant let them go its really hard

    • carmella 4 years ago

      Thanks, my husband saved ours from 2 kids in SC. They are very healthy. They were the size of a quarter and are now about 4 inches across. They have out grown their tank. We are going back to SC and we are going to bring them back to where they came from. We will miss them, but hopefully they will be happy.

    • Areeb Hossain profile image

      Areeb Hossain 3 years ago

      I let my turtles go after having the male for about 6 years and the female for the last 2-3 of that six. It's been about 8 months since then and I've been very sad lately and I can't keep myself from tearing up. I would give up anything to have them back. They were getting 5-6 inches in diameter and outgrowing the 30 gallon tank. But I hope they are living a good life because there is a bunch of water weeds algae and small minnows there.

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 3 years ago

      I don't regret anything. From time to time I miss seeing my turtle in his sandbox, doing quarky things. If I could catch another baby, I would raise it for a year and release it, but my brother's friend chancing upon them entering the water was luck.

      I'm sure my turtle and your turtles are doing fine. He acted so happy in the water after I released him, not bumping into glass, no limit. It's where they are meant to be.

    • Dee and Seppy 3 years ago

      That was a very nice!! answered a lot of questions that i had. My boyfriends sister took a snapping turtle(September aka Seppy ha ha) and had it for a few days and then gave it to us. I didn't know a thing about them or even have a tank. He was very small like the size or a quarter when we got him and its been about 7 months almost now and he is getting big. I know that i cant keep him forever but i am also scared to let him go. Two reasons, One being that i have become attached to him and two because of a lot of questions that you did answer above. I still will always worry about where he is, if hes okay, hoping that he did not get eaten. Its so hard. So what to do if i cant let him go? But your post did help me lean towards letting him go in the near future. Decisions, Decisions.

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 3 years ago

      I was extremely attached to my turtle. If you have the room and all his needs, then why not keep him for one more year? Of course, it won't be much easier a year from now. But yeah, unless you're willing to set up a tank the size of a small swimming pool, you're going to have to let him go eventually. I think two years is fine because they get big enough not to get eaten by most fish and they only miss out on a few hibernations. We sure love our animals, but when they are supposed to be in the wild, that's the best place for them. There's a reason why pet turtles live shorter lives than those in the wild. Good luck.

    • dave 3 years ago

      we saved a snapping turtle from being ran over, it was only the size of a quarter, we had kept him for two years and I took him to the near by river which is about 1/2 mile, 2 month later the turtle returned and walked right into the garage right where his tank was, I was shooked, I didn't think it was the same one but it was, now I feel bad to relese him cause it went through so much to return here

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 3 years ago

      Wow, if it was the same turtle, that's amazing. If he knew how to get back to your house from the get-go, it would only take him a few hours to walk there.

      My turtle seemed so happy when I released him (or her) into the lake that I wouldn't believe he would want to return to his 20 gallon. Did you keep the snapper? During what season did he make his reappearance?

    • Steph 3 years ago

      I just released my turtle. Very much like your story, someone found a wild turtle and passed it on to me. I also began feeding it live food and slowly changing his tank water to Pond water. It was sad to let him go, but I knew it was for the best. I had him for 2 summers, and he grew to a good size.

    • Popinjay 3 years ago

      Today I am releasing our mature (9 years old) eastern box turtle into a Wildlife Habitat. This turtle has always been an outdoor pet...hibernating, hunting and the like...but in a 3 foot square enclosure. It came to us from another family who had it in an approx. 20 ft. square enclosure with 18 other turtles.

      I just think it's time for this reptile to "get back to where it once belonged" and live a full turtle life...whatever that entails. I appreciate the common sense and sensitivity of your article after reading so much opposition to release.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      DrMark1961 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Great points. I take Atlantic Green Sea Turtle hatchlings and put them right by the ocean so that they will not be eaten on the way down the beach, but often wonder about what effect my meddling has.

      Really interesting points you raise. Thanks.

    • Turtle Texas 2 years ago

      I have the same story. We found our quarter size red ear slider in our pool about 1 year ago. I've been taking care of her so that she grows strong to take care of herself in the wild.

      Thank you, ALL for sharing your personal stories it is helping me feel stronger about a release when the temps here in Texas are higher.

      We have Lake Ray Hubbard 1/4 mile down the hill that she came from and once we have more water in this part of the lake she will be back home.

      I also plan on getting lake water (in her tank) before she is let go to ensure she gets use to the water...

      Thank you All

      I really love this Turtle had NO clue ..I would feel so much for a Turtle that only wants food from me..

    • KC 2 years ago

      I also have a baby turtle. I think it is a Yellow Belly Slider. I rescued him/her from a busy 6 lane highway. I have no idea the source of water from where it came, and I don't think it would have survived the traffic. That was about two months ago, and its shell was only about an inch in diameter, now it has grown at least twice its size. It is still small though, and I recently read that even adult Yellow Bellies don't have much protection from raccoons, dogs, or foxes, and probably bobcats too, since their shells don't close off. I live in Florida, so I worry about alligators too! Originally, I was just planning to keep the little guy until the cold weather was definitely over and until he/she grew a bit, and it has. Now, I am still worried about the preditors. I too want my turtle to be free, but I also want him to live. In Florida, the weather is hot or mild most of the year. We can get some days in the 40's or even freezing, but those are rare. I asked my husband if we could build a pond with an outdoor enclosure, but then I read that Yellow Bellies can live 40 years in captivity, and I can't commit to that as I may not be around myself. I am wondering, is there a size of turtle that has a significantly better chance of survival? My turtle is about 1 and 3/4 inches in diameter and his shell is about 2 inches long. I too will acclimate him to pond water, and I will feed him live food, etc... but when should I release him?

    • shannon 2 years ago

      I've enjoyed reading these post and feel better about releasing the baby wood turtle we rescued last October. My question we got him from a stream about an hour away from our house, we have similar streams around our house but I want to release her where she has her best chance of survival. Do you think we should take her back to where we found her? I love the part about the turtle knocking against the glass, it will be hard to let her go but her freedom will be worth it.

    • Texas Tutle 2 years ago

      My Red ear slider was quarter size Feb 4th, 2013 she now is 5 inches long and ready to be released. I'm planning to add lake water starting next month into her tank..I was told to release once the temp is over 50 and I'm waiting for the temp to be much hotter before I take her back to the lake. I'm now also feeding her worms so she is use to the live food..

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 2 years ago

      Hi KC,

      Obviously the bigger the turtle, the less likely it will be eaten by larger turtles and fish. But you have a point about alligators. If you're that concerned about the turtle's well being, is there an animal sanctuary you can take it to ensure it lives a long life? Or perhaps you can keep it for 10 years and then pass it down to a relative or close friend. I'd rather just let it go, but there's no need to come to a decision quickly. Take your time deciding on what you believe is best for the turtle.


      I would let it go where you found it. Maybe one stream has dangerous animals in it and the next one doesn't. It may not matter at all, but that's what I would do.

    • tb 2 years ago

      Im going through this right now i have 2 a res and box but its been a year i have been told to take to nature reserve but its miles away i feel confident since reading these blogs that they will be fine taking them back to the lake were i got them but im so sad because i raised them

    • Turtle Texas 2 years ago

      I was planning to release mine this summer? She is under 6 inches and still small in my eyes. So I have decided to keep her for another year just to make sure she is big enough to not be pray for birds.. I keep thinking if we could build a pond that would work..but its costly.

    • wileycat66 2 years ago

      Thank you so much for this article. I just rescued a really tiny turtle from my mother's yard. The marsh he came from was on its way to being bone dry pretty much. I thought I would put him back, then realized I had no idea where to put him. So I kept him, going to a pet store for advice. The guy there suggested I keep him for a couple of weeks until he gets a little bigger, but it sounds like I might be waiting a while for him to get big enough. So I am going to get him an aquarium tomorrow. I kill mosquitos for him and feed him baby turtle pellets. I bought conditioner for his water like the guy suggested.

      I have been wondering if releasing him back into the wild will be too much of a shock to his system and so your ideas are great. I will do what you are doing just to be safe. Will release him somewhere nearby that has a good source of water in the woods. I have put plants from the marsh in his water and a rock for him to climb up on. He seems like he is doing really well. Thanks again! I would have let other things I read totally scare me. My mother thinks I am a little neurotic about the turtle and we have a good laugh about it.

    • nehinc 2 years ago

      Have had Hermie and Harry for at least 3 years, will keep them until they are four to 5 inches, will get a bigger aquarium for the final leg of their stay here with us. They seem happy and they are spoiled, but freedom beckons soon, I know exactly where they came from so release is not an issue. I will transition using some of the tips from this article , so tank you :) The Johnson's their home

    • Yaya 2 years ago

      On Saturday we will release our yellow bellied slider into the lake where he was born three years ago. He is big, now, and lonely. He is ready to bask on bigger rocks. Thank you for your article. Nice to know we're not the "only ones".

    • Eastern Painted 2 years ago

      Hi. Your article was the first that didn't make me feel like a horrible person for rescuing a 1 inch eastern painted two months ago. I've also come to the decision that I want to release him when he's big enough. Right now he's almost three inches long. Do you think it's still too soon to start prepping him/her for freedom? I'm going to also take your lead in adjusting the water and providing varied foods. You're article was very helpful, Thank you!

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 2 years ago

      Mine was about 4 inches when I let him go, although I think three inches is big enough to release. It's when they're a quarter size that surviving is slim. Also mine was a soft shell, so this could also make a difference. It depends on what you know is in the water and how big its mouth is; be your own judge. Thanks for the comment.

    • nehinc 2 years ago

      Update for Hermie & Harry , they have a new 30 gallon tank , will let them grow for one more year , once they are big enough not to be swallowed in one bite they will be free birds !


    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 2 years ago


    • Olivia 22 months ago

      Thank you very much for all this insight and information. I too, am in a similar situation. 7 months ago (Sept) my turtle,' Soup', was found in a pool filter across the street from a pond the day after a deluge of rain. He was a tiny little hatchling, shell barely the size of a nickel - though not a soft-shell...just a generic little 'guy?' Research disclosed 90% mortality rate for hatchlings. So I took him in. He seems to be very healthy & now his shell is a strapping 4.5" x 3". Now that the temperature is stable & warming, I plan to release him in a pond near my home later this week (I'm in Clearwater, Florida.) He has shared his tank with 3 feeder fish now for 4 weeks & couldn't seem less interested in them as potential food. He actually freaked out when I first put them in the tank - they are tiny - & he acted terrified of them at first. This concerns me a little as far as his dietary survival goes. At any rate, if he makes it, he makes it...if he doesn't, I gave him a better shot at it than his odds as a hatchling. On his release day, I'm quite sure I will shed a tear or two. My little turtle..."Soup."

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 22 months ago

      Is your turtle even a carnivore? Many eat vegetation. Besides, young carnivorous turtles are scavengers rather than hunters, so I wouldn't worry about it. And I agree with you 100%. Good luck.

    • Ashley 19 months ago

      This article was amazing! Very helpful and insightful!

    • Deborah 18 months ago

      Hello. I am in the same boat as several people here. A custodian at the school where I work gave me a baby snapping turtle. Its shell was about the size of a quarter in late October, last year. Now, it is mid-July, and his shell is about 7 inches long. I am concerned that he will get hurt, but your ideas about gradually switching the water, and also giving him live food, are helpful. Time to let him go, because he seems to want to swim freely. So, concerned still, but it is the right thing to do, I think. Thank you for this post.

    • Cheyenne 16 months ago

      My turtle got sick and I took her to the vet yesterday. They told me she was a wild turtle and illegal to have. I wasn't aware of this, maybe I should have been, but I was only 13-14 when she was given to me and never thought to research. I have researched over the past years, but never found in useful information that helped me make a decision. The only turtle vet was 2 hours away and my turtle never got sick so I never took her. The vet she went to is an hour away and just started seeing turtles recently. He made me feel horrible about keeping her. I honestly didn't know. I loved Ralph and always only wanted what was best for her. So I immediately turned her over to him to get better and then for him to release her. I donated money to her care and left hoping I had made the right decision and he wasn't lying about her being able to survive. I found this and now I feel better. I now release I should have done things differently for Ralph and if I could go back I would do things differently for her. I always wanted to protect and thought I was, but I was really just hurting her and keeping her from true happiness. I raised Ralph from a few weeks old for the past 6-7 years. As exhausting as it was I enjoyed knowing her. I gave her 6 years when she should have died at a few weeks and that's something I don't regret. I'm sad, but mostly relieved and happy for her. I never meant to seem selfish like that vet tried to make it seem. I wish I could have seen her be released, but to late now. Though I will never have a turtle again it was definitely a unique experience to have. I'm still in shock that nobody I talked to (rescues, vets, animal people) mentioned she was illegal and I should release her. Maybe Ralph will meet a guy and have some babies now. :-)

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 16 months ago

      I can tell you cared about your turtle. I made mistakes with my turtle too in the beginning. Glad you cared enough to not only pay to have a vet take care of her but to let her go as well and have her return to nature where she belongs.

    • Christinamariac 16 months ago

      I have a snapping turtle that I found my neighbors chewing on last year. He had to have just hatched because he was no bigger than the palm of my hand. I took him in and have been taking care of him ever since. Its been a little over a year now and he is just too big and too snappy for me to take care of anymore. I want to set him free but fear that he wont make it due to the cold weather setting in and winter just around the corner. I live in Taunton Ma and want to set him free at Massasoit state park where I always see other snappers striving. Should I wait till spring or do it now? Please help.

    • mariekbloch profile image

      mariekbloch 16 months ago

      Turtles will go into hibernation if the water is too cold. Have no idea what the temp of the water is, so I can't say. If you have the means to take care of him for another 4-5 months, I'd keep him until spring. Just be sure he's getting adequate space, good filtration, and a varied diet. Good luck.

    • rojas-reese 11 months ago

      Thank you very much for your insight. I have right now a turtle with almost the same type of story you told here. Everything you said, feel and though I have been going through. Yes, I do want to release her, because he should be able to enjoy his own environment. My turtle is very healthy, growing nicely. she will be 1 year old in April 2016. My husband found her around my yard next water a baby. I am going to follwo your suggestions though my heart is going to be broken. thank you.

    • Dave 9 months ago

      Your article was very articulate and shared a lot of my sentiments as well.

    • Chenelle 9 months ago

      I'm so glad I found this article when I did. A family friend had given my daughter a quarter sized Painted Turtle 4 years ago. For the life of me I can't remember where he said he got it from, since then we have grown out of contact, so I can't ask. I've been questioning for years whether or not to let him go in a near by pond, but fear of something happening to him always held me back, and the not knowing exactly where he came from. My daughter named him Master Oogway, from the movie Kung Fu Panda, and let me tell you, Master Oogway is definitely apart of the family lol. My cat is his best friend. As much as I love Master O, it kills me to see him swimming into the side of the tank. And I feel the tank we have isn't big enough for him to comfortably live, I believe it is a 50 gallon one. Deep down I always knew that once he got to be a good size that he would most likely be fine in the wild, but being a momma to that baby for 4 years is not letting me think clearly lol. I had all the same worries as every one of these other parents, will he know how to survive? Will the temperature change be to drastic and end up killing him? Will he know how to hunt and catch his food? But you reminded me that Yes, he can. I'm just being a silly over protective mom. Year 5 is approaching quickly and I want to do right by him. But your article did concern me with the if it was store bought, do not release into the wild. I want to say he wasn't...but I'm really not sure. So that's my dilemma. As of now it's still to chilly to release him, if that is indeed what is right, so alittle more research and thought till then. But thank you very much for sharing your story, It was a huge help and instilled confidence in many of your readers!! :-)

    • karyann 8 months ago

      this article is JUST what I needed. i had decided this is just what I needed to do for my two boys (res) one I've had for a year is a healthy, thriving 4 1/2inches. I just love his personality.....altho he's in 55gal with a canister filter, HE NEEDS TO BE FREE. but, I was so afraid that I hampered their survival instincts. Then i realized 'they are reptiles'...but I was going back and forth with it. this article is perfect and truly with the well being of the animal in mind. the other boy I have, lol Otis is 3 1/2inches and I think ready to go too.....I've got them outside in a pond going on three nights. with the same plan in mind you had, except I was using rain water and local plants.....will get some lake water. and they should be ready in about 10days. the lake will be perfect by then. thank you

    • Angie 7 months ago


      I had my terrapin as a present for 10 years, living in my house.

      he became a member of the family and he new every single corner of my house . he use to follow us around the house and respond to our call and taping the floor. everybody new my funny friend. It has been

      lots of work to keep him well , but 3 week ago he catch pneumonia and not matter what we did , the money that we spent to keep him in a clinic for 4 days and try to save him injecting him with medications and vitamins , 5 days ago died . I cried like a baby and I miss him so much.

      Reading your story has been great . well done I am sure that you are doing the best thing . Good luck to your little friend , I wish him a good life.

    • kim 6 months ago

      Thank you for sharing your story and the great info. I have found myself in a very similar situation...with not 1, but 2 turtles. I only want to do what is best and set them free just as soon as I feel they have the best chance of not getting eaten. Although, I have grown quite fond of them (but, because I really care about them, I want what's best). They have more personality than I imagined and are so smart. :) I have also learned a lot from studying as much info as I can find on them in order to provide the best for them, then release them when the time is right. But, as you know when you wrote the article, most of the info says it's Not OK to release them and I was torn because of the very things you mentioned. They do have amazing instincts....that they are born with. They would have been prey and died instantly if I hadn't "saved" them. (although, I do understand that natures way is often not our way) I just couldn't bear to watch them die and not help. I should also mention that I know the importance of keeping the turtles isolated, as to not spread disease, and actually keep both of my turtles in two entirely separate homes with separate heat lamps and uv lighting (yes, it has been very expensive). Your article makes me feel so much better about releasing them when the time is right, so thank you!

    • Randy Yandel 6 months ago

      Yeah I just let my turtle go. He was literally like my son. I kept him in such good conditions. Fed him all kind of nutritious foods. From the day I found him in my front yard to the 3 different size tanks I bought him... my turtle Wilfred Fizzlebang knew what he was doing. He was healthy and grew perfectly. I kept him so well that he never tried to squirm or bite me. My girlfriend always made him feisty. I was hard to believe that I could have tamed a snapping turtle, but I know I did. Beside all opposite belief. It was so hard to let him go. I cried very much as I set him off in the creek in my backyard, but as said in the article the mother leaves and they are solo sentient beings. He hatched in my front yard garden... he was a great companion and kept me on my toes. anyways. Thanks for the article. It cheered me up.

    • Cliff 5 months ago

      I had a RES for two years in a 75 gallon tank and a great filter system. He loved to bask under his hot heat lamp. He was scared to death of me though and would hiss and bite if I tried to pick him up. He ate lots of worms and fish and pellets. The problem was he got so big! The tank was not big enough. I found a local pond with many RES in it. I spoke to the vet and he said he would be fine if I set him free during the hot summer months. On the way to the pond, Shorty climbed out of his box! I got to the park and put him by the edge of the water and he swam right in. He was a tough guy and I hope he is happy in his huge new home.

    • Deborah 5 months ago

      I found a baby redslider in my backyard. And I'm doing the same thing YOU are doing. Reading your post made me feel much better because I just wanted to ensure his survival a bit. I new if I walked him down to the lake he would be eaten by something. I have him in a tank I'm going to do the best I can to get him ready to return where he belongs, just needs to be bigger. Thank you for the info.

    • Jessica 4 months ago

      I'm so relieved to find this post. I just released my babies this last weekend. I've had them both for about 8 years. The female longer than the male. Two different species, Western painted turtle female and Red-eared male. I have developed a relationship with my female painted turtle. She is smart and somewhat tame. She knows me, comes to me etc. I was not sure about letting her go. She's been getting pregnant for the last 2 or 3 summers. I've had to keep them in separate tanks for a while because of that. However, I just felt like it was time for them to be free and happy in the wild. The female was lost in my mom's manmade pond for 3 days and thrived a few years ago. When I released them, she stayed around near the shore of this beautiful non-fishing pond. She kept hanging out near me like she wasn't sure if she could really go. After 5 or so minutes of her swimming a little ways and coming back she finally took off with her mate. I think they will be very happy. I just get sad when I can't feed them in the mornings or evenings.

    • akash 4 months ago

      wonderful ! well done ! Devine

    • Fred D 4 months ago

      Wow , I have 2 turtles which I was thinking of letting go in a lake , and something told me that I may not be doing the right thing. I'm very happy that I read your tweet. Thank you my friend, thank you

    • Ines Krypton 3 months ago

      Hello! Thanks for your article!

      3 years ago I was offered a turtle. I'm always sad to see her (in Portuguese turtles are female) in a small aquarium. I was wondering if it was a good thing to release her in a small lake in my city.

      I'm glad I read your article because I had no idea bought turtles could carry diseases.

      I'll give her to a friend of a friend who has more room, a much bigger aquarium with other turtles.

    • ann 8 weeks ago

      Thank you for this post. I have a turtle that me husband and i brought home from the lake one day out while we were fishing. This was 20, yes 20 years ago. He has grown into a 55 gallon tank and now that I am having health issues, I am considering letting him go back into the same lake he came from. I am on well water so his water is always more natural. He has branches in his tank, along with natural algea. Crickets, worms and some pellets are also fed to him. During winter months, he dies go into a hybernatin and I have never had a heat rock nor lamp for him, so is used to colder water. He is a part of this family, but due to health issues, I am having to get rid of many of my clan. It is nice to read that I feel he will be okay. He came home smaller than the bottom of a solo cup and now you can't reach one hand across him.

    Click to Rate This Article