Box turtles have been my favorite reptiles since I was a boy. They were plentiful in the woods around my grandparents’ home in Noyac, New York. I’m happy that there are box turtles in my suburban Knoxville neighborhood. In fact, Tennessee and North Carolina honor the eastern box turtle as their official state reptile.
I had hoped that WATE’s sweeps-month story about exotic animals would have more about turtles. The story spent more time on snakes and birds but did mention that it is illegal to own box turtles because of the risk of salmonella. Fortunately, my critter-filled back yard gives me a chance to see plenty of animals without having the responsibility of owning them.
The TWRA website says: “In Tennessee, no one is allowed to keep any animal as a pet taken from the wild, which to many people’s surprise includes tadpoles, frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, baby birds, squirrels, raccoons, and young deer.”
If you do encounter a turtle on the road, the East Tennessee Wildlife Rehabilitation Council website has advice: “Is the turtle crossing, or about to cross, a busy roadway? If safe for you to do so, place the animal on the side of the road in the direction it was heading. Turtles will only turn around and re-cross the road if you place them on the side they were leaving!”