RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is sounding the alarm on an illegal turtle trade after seizing dozens of the shelled reptiles from private and retail sellers across the Commonwealth.

The DWR Conservation Police Officers coordinated with the DWR Wildlife Division staff to seize a dozen red-eared sliders and eastern painted turtles, as well as 30 Mississippi map turtles from the sellers.

DWR posted the images on Facebook, stating “It is unlawful to sell native or naturalized species. The nonnative red-eared slider has become established in several areas around the Commonwealth, is considered one of the top 100 most invasive species globally, and is illegal to possess.”

Small plastic pool full of seized turtles. Photo provided by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources

Interbreeding with the native yellow-bellied slider and the introduction of pet trade-oriented diseases are some of the threats the species poses to the natural wildlife, DWR said. The Mississippi map turtle is also naturalized with populations in Newport News and areas around Washington, D.C.

DWR revised regulations regarding the personal use of reptiles on its website.

It is illegal to charge adoption or rehoming fees, and all native or naturalized species of turtles in Virginia are protected from commercial sale. Only snapping turtles are allowed to be commercially harvested and sold, with the appropriate permit in place.

According to DWR, several of the hatchling and juvenile map turtles were shipped to zoological facilities for education and exhibit purposes. The remaining animals were humanely euthanized since finding appropriate homes for them is difficult, the department said. “Because these turtles are relatively cheap to purchase, they are often treated as ‘disposable pets’ and either die from poor husbandry or are released into the wild after the owner is no longer willing or able to care for them.”

Small plastic tubs full of seized turtles. Photo provided by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources