Florida has approved strong conservation measures for freshwater turtles.
Concerned with increasing popularity of turtles and the potential for over-harvest, the Commission passed stronger rules to protect turtle species and developed a long-term turtle conservation strategy. Selling turtles taken from the wild is prohibited.
FWC rules prohibit taking or possessing turtles from the wild that are listed on Florida's imperiled species list. These turtles are listed as imperiled:
- Alligator snapping turtles (Macrochelys temminckii)
- Barbour's map turtles (Graptemys barbouri)
- Suwannee cooters (Pseudemys suwanniensis)
Also prohibited is taking species that look similar to the imperiled species, which include common snapping turtles and cooters.
- Cooters (Pseudemys sp.)
- Escambia Map Turtle (Graptemys ernsti)
- Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina)
For all other freshwater turtles, take is limited to one turtle per person per day (midnight to midnight) from the wild for noncommercial use. The transport of more than one turtle per day is prohibited, unless the transporter has a license for sale or exhibition of wildlife, aquaculture certification from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, or documentation that their turtles were legally obtained (proof of purchase).
Freshwater turtles can only be taken by hand, dip net, minnow seine or baited hook. Most freshwater turtles may be taken year-round. Taking turtles with bucket traps, snares, or shooting with firearms is prohibited. Softshell turtles may not be taken from the wild from May 1 to July 31. In addition, collecting of freshwater turtle eggs is prohibited.
Some turtle farms depend on collection of wild freshwater turtles. With the new rule, certified turtle aquaculture facilities, under a tightly controlled permitting system, will be allowed to collect turtles to establish reproduction in captivity so that farms can become self-sustaining to lessen their dependence on collection of turtles from the wild.
Possession limits for the following turtle species and their eggs are as follows:
- Loggerhead musk turtles - two
- Box turtles - two
- Escambia map turtles - two
- Diamondback terrapins - two
No one may sell turtles taken from the wild in Florida. In addition, no one may buy, sell, or possess for sale alligator snapping turtles, Barbour's map turtles, Suwannee cooters or parts thereof.
If you had an alligator snapping turtle, Barbour's map turtles, or Suwannee cooters before July 20, 2009, you must apply for a Class III Personal Pet License to keep your turtles. The license will not be issued for more than one alligator snapping turtle or more than two Barbour's map turtles.
Buying, selling, taking, or possessing gopher tortoises, or parts thereof, is prohibited except by permit from the FWC executive director.
Additional regulations apply for sea turtles.
For additional information, see the Wildlife regulation 68A-25.002(9) of the Florida Administrative Code at https://www.flrules.org/Default.asp.
Non-native species that are released into the wild may compete with native species for habitat or food, prey on native wildlife, transmit diseases, or, in the case of the red-eared slider, interbreed with Florida's native wildlife. FWC Rule 68-5.001, F.A.C., prohibits the release of any non-native animal in Florida.
Red-eared sliders are a common non-native turtle that has been popular in the pet trade. Red-eared sliders are listed as a conditional species in Florida. Anyone that possessed a pet red-eared slider before July 1, 2007 can legally keep their turtle and no permit is required. However, Floridians are not allowed to acquire red-eared sliders as personal pets after that date.
Anyone importing or possessing red-eared sliders for research, exhibition, or out of state sale is required to have a Conditional/Prohibited/Nonnatve Species Permit. Certified aquaculturists with restricted species authorization from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services may possess and cultivate red-eared sliders for out of state sale and for sale to permitted Florida researchers, exhibitors or dealers, or to other certified aquaculturists. Authorized aquaculturists that import red-eared sliders also must obtain a special permit.