A typical Eastern box turtle will have only two surviving young in its fifty-year-long life. In many parts of their range, their numbers have fallen by 30-60% in recent decades. If their populations continue declining at this rate, they will become extinct quickly.
Box turtles aren’t our only native turtle facing possible extinction. Bog turtles are our most threatened species, and it’s only because of diligent efforts at captive breeding and habitat protection that we haven’t already lost them.
Tennessee is one of many states that protects our sensitive native reptiles by forbidding the public from capturing or selling them as pets. Despite this, you can look at nearly any Facebook “rehoming” group and any Craigslist at any given time, and you’ll see people buying and selling native turtles.
Watch out for the kind of sugar-coating and coded language that some of these poachers use. They may call the sale price of a native turtle a “rehoming fee” or may have a backstory about how they saved it from a bad owner or rescued it from a construction site or predator. They may say it was captive-bred or that they are licensed to sell them. Please don’t be fooled if you see this sort of listing. Selling native reptiles is illegal regardless of the circumstances, and legitimate rehabilitators do not rehome turtles to the general public.
If you see this happening, please, for the love of these incredible little creatures, say something! You can contact your local TWRA officers by phone or email. By speaking up when you see poaching, you can help save our native wildlife.