What to Do When You Find a Turtle in Your Backyard?

Turtle in a Backyard

Unlike cats and dogs, turtles are fairly eccentric animals. Most people don’t have proper knowledge of what to do when encountering one outside captivity. What should you do if you come across a turtle near your living area? And can you keep it as a pet?

Before you do anything with the turtle you found, make sure to check its species first. Rules on keeping or bothering the turtle may vary depending on your state and the turtle species. Unless it is a foreign species, it is usually best to leave them alone. Seek professional help if you’re unsure of the species or don’t know what to do.

Meeting turtles near your living area is not something most people experience on a daily basis. So, let’s discuss some of the things you can do if one does show up unannounced in your backyard.


What to Do When You Find a Turtle in Your Backyard?

During springtime, a lot of turtles will be relocating and people often encounter them on roads and in their backyards. In case you feel confused as to what to do if you find a turtle in your backyard, here are a few actions you can take to ensure the safety of the turtle and avoid the guilt of inaction.

  1. Leave Them Alone

Most times, turtles are best left alone. These animals are usually on the move from spring to early fall. If you live near a body of water or neat forestry, then you probably have already seen many turtles and tortoises.

You are more likely to cause harm than help a turtle if you pick it up outside captivity. So, unless the turtle looks like a foreign species or there are no nearby turtle habitats, it’s best to leave them alone.

  1. Identify the Species

Sometimes, turtles may escape captivity or get released by their owners who no longer want them. These turtles are unlikely to be native to your region and can seriously pose a threat to the regional species.

They are also unlikely to survive in the wild since they won’t be accustomed to the outside environment. Again, depending on the species, it could be illegal to approach, disturb, or adopt them.

  1. Help Them Cross the Road

If you discover a turtle crossing the road, it is best to pick it up and help it cross the road in the direction it was headed. Doing so will protect them from any potential accidents. Besides, this way, they are less likely to be attacked by predators once they have safely crossed the road. Although, make sure that you cross the road in a direction it was already heading towards.

  1. Do Not Catch and Release Them in a “Better Place”

Many people think they are doing the turtle a favor by taking it to a nearby water body and releasing them. However, this is a huge mistake. Turtles have very limited lying territories, and taking them away from their living quarters may potentially be like a death sentence for them.

Therefore, do not attempt to take it too far from where you find it unless you are absolutely sure it is the right thing to do.

  1. Call a Recognized Animal Rehabilitator

Unless you have handled turtles before, it is best to get professional help in these kinds of situations. A professional can help you identify the species of the turtle, tell you if it is native or invasive, and guide you along with the steps you need to follow to safely handle the situation. They may also take the animal in and help with its rehabilitation process since most domestic turtles don’t do well alone in the wild.

  1. Take in Baby Turtles

Baby turtles are very vulnerable in the wild. They are defenseless on their own and are very likely to die before they even reach the waters. Thus, if you see a lost baby turtle, take it inside as soon as possible and call professionals. They will help significantly improve the baby turtle’s chances of survival.

If you leave a baby turtle alone thinking its parents are nearby, you will be making a big mistake since mother turtles lay eggs outside water and leave them to fend for their own. Therefore, a baby turtle in the wild has no protection of its own.

Now, the first thing that comes to many people’s minds when they see a turtle in mind is, “Can I keep it?” Let’s answer that.


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Can You Keep a Turtle You Found Outside?

The straight-cut answer is, probably no. You should not just adopt a wild turtle on a whim. Reptiles are not like cats and dogs; they require a lot of prior preparation, care, and commitment to thrive in domestic situations.

However, in case you are determined to keep one as a pet, here are a few things you need to keep in mind before doing so.

  • Identify its species and check whether it is the type of turtle people keep as pets or not. If it happens to be endangered or too feral, leave it alone.
  • Check with the local authorities and find out whether it is legal or not to keep this species of turtles as pets. You do not want to get into any legal trouble because of this.
  • Take the turtle to a vet or professional caretaker and get it checked for any potential diseases that might pose problems in the long run.
  • Properly research how to raise turtles. Learn the necessary precautions and make sure your home is safe for the turtle to inhabit. TurtleTails.com is a good website to find such advice.
  • Turtles are high-maintenance pets, so make sure you are willing to put in the time and effort these creatures demand to thrive as pets.


With these points in mind, you can attempt to raise the turtle. But do not forget, a turtle is a long-term commitment. So, do not go into this half-hearted! It is still advised to hand the turtle to a rehabilitation center or leave it alone. However, if you truly desire to keep one as a pet, consider adopting or buying one from the pet store.

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