Can A Pet Box Turtle Survive In The Wild?

can a pet box turtle survive in the wild

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

One of the most common thoughts that occurs to new box turtle owners is whether their pet box turtle can survive in the wild or not. I conducted some comparative analysis on this matter and decided to find out what exactly is the case.

Pet box turtles cannot survive in the wild. The box turtle may not have the necessary skills to find food or avoid predators. Additionally, it could introduce diseases or disrupt local ecosystems.

However, it’s not just the wild environment that a box turtle has trouble coping with. If you are interested to know more about what happens when a box turtle is released in the wild, I’ll suggest you to read along.

box turtle shell collage
Owner: Mark Gilch

Factors To Be Considered Before Releasing Box Turtles

There are several factors associated with whether a box turtle can be released in the wild. Some of which include –

  • Where is the box turtle sourced from?
  • How long has it been reared as a pet?
  • Is it a wild box turtle or a pet breed?

The reason these factors are to be considered is that box turtles are sensitive creatures. They don’t tend to do well in an environment outside of their familiar zone or comfort zone. There always remains the threat of not being able to cope up, even in a homestead environment. 

Releasing Box Turtles Sourced From The Wild

If a box turtle is sourced from the wild, chances are that it can be released back into the wild, only if it is not reared as a pet for long.

Once a box turtle gets used to a domestic environment, it is hard for them to cope again in the harsh wild nature.

Apart from that, box turtles are sensitive to the environment they belong to, meaning if they are caught from a specific wild environment, they are required to be released in the same environment to ensure that there is a chance of survival. Or else the chance of survival drops dramatically.

box turtle eating flower
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

Releasing Pet Box Turtles In The Wild

This is a big NO.

A domestically sourced or pet box turtle should never be released in the wild.

The reason is that they never had to fend for themselves or survive in extreme conditions. A box turtle would almost definitely fail to cope with the wild environment and perish.

Releasing a pet box turtle is not only wrong on moral grounds but it is also illegal to do so in certain parts of the world.

Care should be taken while sourcing box turtles for pet purposes so that it conforms with local laws.

Why Shouldn’t Pet Box Turtles Be Released In The Wild?

In addition to the most apparent answer that the chances of coping with a different environment are a bare minimum, there are other factors as well that dictate why a pet box turtle should not be released in the wild.

One of the more common reasons is that box turtles are not a hibernating breed of turtles. In winters, it is common for many species of wild turtles to go into hibernation. However, box turtles in its evolutionary stage have never had such a coping mechanism.

So if a pet box turtle is suddenly released in the wild environment, chances are that it will fail to cope up with the cold nature and die shortly.

two box turtles side by side
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

Another reason is that the box turtle holds a profound connection with the place they are born in.

In its lifespan, a box turtle would not wander far off from its initial habitat. It’s because movement from a known environment causes immense stress for them.

A comparative study has shown that 30,000 box turtles were displaced from their local environment over a course of 41 days. The result of the displacement was that almost more than half of all the box turtles died within a short period due to the lack of coping mechanisms. This shows why it is a bad idea to release a box turtle into the wild.

Impacts On The Environment

Releasing box turtles into the wild has some critical impacts on the environment as well. It might be thought that the only negative impact is on the box turtles being released itself but that is not the case.

Every typical wild nature would have enough provision to sustain the existing number of species in it. This is also true in the case of box turtles and their wild environment.

Most of the wild environments have just enough provision to sustain the existing number of box turtles in the wild. However, if all of a sudden people decide to release their box turtles, what would happen? 

It would disrupt the ecological balance. There will arise food shortage as well as habitat shortage for the box turtles. It cannot be emphasized enough how bad the environmental impact would be on the species.

Captive-bred box turtles are artificially reared. The process is miles different from the wild ones where most of the turtles are on their own. Now, this might seem to be a typically good option to rear box turtles in a closed environment, but what is required to be understood here is that captive-bred box turtles also tend to develop various types of virus and pathogens among them. A turtle might appear to be healthy but internally they hold the presence of various foreign bodies.

These viruses might appear to be harmless for the captive-bred box turtles but it poses a great threat to the wild ones. When released in the wild environment, these box turtles hold the chance of wiping out the entire population of box turtle in that area. So pet box turtles should never be released in the wild.

box turtle on hand
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

Should I let my box turtle go?

No, you should not release a captive box turtle into the wild. Doing so can be harmful for several reasons:

Adaptation Issues: Captive turtles may not have the necessary survival skills to find food, avoid predators, or cope with environmental challenges.

Disease Transmission: Captive turtles might carry diseases or parasites that can be introduced to wild populations, potentially causing outbreaks.

Genetic Concerns: If your turtle is not native to the area or is a different subspecies, releasing it can lead to unwanted genetic mixing.

Legal Implications: In many places, releasing captive animals into the wild is illegal due to the potential ecological impacts.

If you can no longer care for your turtle, the best course of action is to contact a local wildlife rehabilitator, herpetological society, or veterinarian for guidance. They can advise on the most appropriate and humane solution for your turtle’s well-being.

Where should I let my box turtle go or release it?

If you can no longer care for your box turtle, rather than releasing it, you should contact a local wildlife rehabilitator, herpetological society, or veterinarian.

They can provide guidance on the best course of action, which might include rehoming or placing the turtle in a sanctuary or appropriate care facility.

  • Wildlife Rehabilitator: These professionals are trained to care for and rehabilitate injured, sick, or displaced wildlife. They can assess the turtle’s health and determine the best course of action.
  • Herpetological Society: These organizations are dedicated to the study and conservation of reptiles and amphibians. They often have resources or contacts to help with rehoming or providing care for turtles.
  • Veterinarian: Some vets specialize in reptiles or have connections to networks that can assist in finding the turtle a new home or care facility.
  • Turtle Sanctuaries or Rescues: These are facilities dedicated to the care of turtles and tortoises. They can provide a safe environment for turtles that can’t be released into the wild.
  • Educational Institutions: Some schools, colleges, or nature centers might be interested in adopting the turtle for educational purposes.

Local Wildlife Rehabilitator for Box Turtles in the USA:

Organization NameContact Info
Box Turtle WorldWebsite
Turtle Rescue of the HamptonsWebsite
Piedmont Wildlife RehabWebsite
The Humane Society of the United StatesWebsite

Herpetological Society for Box Turtles in the USA:

Organization NameContact Info
Virginia Herpetological SocietyWebsite
North Carolina Herpetological SocietyWebsite
Phoenix Herpetological SocietyWebsite

Veterinarian for Box Turtles in the USA:

Organization NameContact Info
Bedford Stuyvesant Veterinary ClinicWebsite
VCA Animal HospitalsWebsite
Wildwood Veterinary HospitalWebsite
box turtle face eye and nail
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

can pet turtles survive in the wild?

Pet turtles, particularly those that have been kept in captivity for a long time, may face several challenges if released into the wild. Here are some reasons why releasing a pet turtle into the wild can be problematic:

  1. Adaptation Difficulties: Turtles that have been in captivity for a long time may not have the necessary skills to find food or evade predators in the wild. They might be more vulnerable to threats because they are not accustomed to the dangers present in natural habitats.
  2. Disease Transmission: Captive turtles might carry diseases or parasites that are not present in the wild populations. Introducing these diseases to wild populations can have devastating effects.
  3. Environmental Mismatch: Not all turtles are suited for all environments. Releasing a turtle into an environment that is not its natural habitat can lead to its death. For example, a tropical species released in a temperate zone might not survive colder temperatures.
  4. Genetic Concerns: If the pet turtle breeds with wild turtles, it can introduce new genetic material into the wild population. This can potentially dilute the genetic diversity of the wild population, leading to long-term consequences for the species.
  5. Legal Issues: In many places, it is illegal to release non-native species into the wild because of the potential ecological impact. Releasing pet turtles can lead to fines or other legal consequences.
  6. Overpopulation: If the released turtles survive and breed, they could potentially lead to overpopulation in certain areas, leading to competition for resources with native species.
  7. Behavioral Issues: Turtles raised in captivity might exhibit behaviors that are not conducive to survival in the wild. For instance, they might be more trusting of humans or other potential threats.

will my turtle die if i release it?

Releasing a captive turtle into the wild can significantly increase its risk of death due to lack of survival skills, exposure to predators, potential inability to find food, and vulnerability to diseases or environmental challenges. While it’s not guaranteed your turtle will die, the risks are considerably high.

box turtle habitat
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

can baby box turtles survive on their own?

Baby box turtles, like many other reptiles, are generally born with the instinctual behaviors necessary for survival. However, their small size and inexperience make them more vulnerable to a variety of threats.

Here’s what you should know about the survival of baby box turtles in the wild:

  1. predation: Baby box turtles are at a high risk of predation. Their small size makes them an easy target for a variety of predators, including birds, mammals, and even other reptiles.
  2. Food Scarcity: While baby box turtles are omnivorous and can eat a variety of foods, they might struggle to find adequate food sources, especially if they are in an area with limited resources.
  3. Environmental Challenges: Baby box turtles are susceptible to environmental challenges such as extreme temperatures, drought, or flooding. They might not yet have the experience to find shelter or navigate these challenges effectively.
  4. Natural Instincts: Despite the challenges, baby box turtles are born with natural instincts that guide them in finding food and avoiding predators. They instinctively know to hide, forage, and seek out water sources.
  5. High Mortality Rate: It’s worth noting that many reptiles, including box turtles, have a high mortality rate in their early life stages. This is a natural part of their life cycle, and only a fraction of hatchlings will reach adulthood. This high mortality rate is balanced by the long lifespan of those that do survive to adulthood.
  6. Human Impact: Human activities can pose additional threats to baby box turtles. Habitat destruction, roads (where many turtles get run over), and pollution can all impact their chances of survival.

In conclusion, while baby box turtles are equipped with the instincts they need to survive, they face many challenges in the wild. If you come across a baby box turtle in the wild, it’s best to observe from a distance and let it go about its business


By now, it is clear that pet box turtles should not be released in the wild environment. While even sourcing them for pets, care should be taken that it is sourced from a captive breed, definitely not wild breed. For the safeguard of these gentle and harmless species, local animal conservation authorities should be consulted to get a better idea about their care and nurturing process.

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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