Illegal Craigslist turtle lands in Forest Grove on way home

Western pond turtle, listed as a 'sensitive' species, recovered from dealer peddling it online

A western pond turtle is sitting in a quarantine bath in Forest Grove, waiting for a release into the wild after being turned over to state wildlife officials by someone trying to sell it online.

The dealer, who posted a notice on the web site, was persuaded to turn the turtle, about 4 or 5 years old, over to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Now the turtle is undergoing a battery of tests to make sure it's healthy and doesn't pose any risk to turtles in the wild.

The western pond turtle is native to Oregon and is currently listed as 'sensitive-critical' on the Oregon State Sensitive Species List. Possession, removal from the wild and harming the turtles is prohibited by state law.

'All of this could have been avoided if people would have just left this turtle in the wild,' said Barnes.

Taking native turtles out of the wild is always a bad idea, according to Barnes, because all of them are considered critical to the species' survival.

'Every time one of these animals is harmed or killed it jeopardizes the future of the species,' said Barnes. 'Every member of the population is important.'

Barnes said the reason turtles often show up for sale on Craigslist is because many people do not realize they have unique requirements that make them difficult to care for.

Western pond turtles need both aquatic and terrestrial habitat, which, even if it were legal to have one as a pet, most pet owners are not able or willing to provide.

'Most people think that turtles are just fine in water all the time or on land all the time,' said Barnes. 'This turtle needs both. Most people aren't able to or don't want to provide both kinds of habitat.'

The red-eared slider is the most common semi-aquatic turtle species in the pet trade. Sliders are not native to Oregon and are illegal in the state due their invasive nature and the harmful effects they can have on Oregon's native species.

But sliders often end up being released into the wild because, like all pond turtles, they are difficult to care for and they often outlive the interest of their caregiver.

Oregon's native turtles, under threat from invasive species like the slider and the pressures of development on their habitat, are an important part of the food chain, said Barnes.

The turtles eat aquatic insects and vegetation and provide food for other animals.

Each year they lay eggs, which are sought out by raccoons, squirrels, snakes and shrews.

'We want people to enjoy our native wildlife,' said Barnes, 'In the case of turtles some people are loving them to death. As with all wildlife, we'd prefer people enjoy them from a distance.'