Spring is on its way, and that unfortunately means that we’re close to the time of year when our native wild animals are at the greatest risk for an under-recognized, under-reported, and under-enforced form of poaching: the illegal capture of wildlife for the pet trade.
People tend to think of poaching as something from the distant past, or something that occurs overseas in rural areas where wildlife-related law enforcement is scarce. But right here in the United States, thousands of animals are illegally kidnapped from the wild every year and trafficked into the pet trade. This can have disastrous consequences for the individual animals— who often die from improper care— and also for their populations as a whole. The exotic pet trade has proven to be especially detrimental for wild reptiles.￼
If you are interested in adopting an exotic pet, please beware of those selling native animals on social media. Rehabilitators never rehome rescued wildlife to the general public, and it is always illegal to sell native animals without a license. (This includes sales that use euphemistic terms like “rehoming fee.”)
If you are truly fully equipped to care for an unconventional pet, please consider reaching first. Your local animal shelters may have captive-bred exotic pets in need of homes, and you can also get in touch with organizations like Saveafox Corporation and Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society about rescuing a captive-bred exotic pet.
Please don’t contribute to poaching for the pet trade! Be responsible when seeking a new member for your household. And if you do see someone selling native wildlife without appropriate permits issued by both the state and the USDA, please speak up and let appropriate authorities know!