Turtles are often desirable and interesting pets; however, for various reasons, they do not always work in the home environment. Some turtles simply grow too large to be indoors or children lose interest in taking care of them. Regardless of the motivation, individuals are often faced with the need to release their turtles -- and they can do so with relative ease.
Check the species. It is important to investigate the type of turtle that you own prior to releasing it. According to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, it is illegal in Connecticut to release pet turtles into the wild because many pet turtles are non-native species, which then compete with native turtles for food and habitat. Many states have similar ordinances, so it is important to investigate state laws regarding turtle release, in addition to ensuring that your turtle is native to the area where it is being let go.
Research the turtle's needs. Turtles have specific dietary and habitat needs that must be met if they are to survive. For instance, the popular painted turtle generally lives in freshwater habitats such as ponds and it eats fish, plants, fruit and insects. Knowing the turtle's needs will also help narrow down a specific area for release.
Find a habitat. Once you know the type of habitat that your turtle requires, begin looking for a suitable space to release it. Investigate areas that meet habitat needs (i.e. freshwater, lots of vegetation) and also search for spaces that are not occupied by people. Areas that are high in traffic are unsafe because turtles roam and may be run over by a car, or their habitat may be polluted by garbage and other waste. Many states have conservation areas designed to protect wildlife, which may be good options for the turtle's new home.
Introduce the turtle's wild food. If the turtle has been eating store-bought food, begin adding foods from its new habitat before releasing it. For example, place insects and plants in the turtle's aquarium and allow it to find and eat the food on its own.
Release the turtle close to its original home. If the turtle was found in the wild, return it as close as possible to the space that it was originally found. This is important because turtles have very specific habitat needs. For example, the wood turtle, found in Michigan, needs a habitat that includes wooded stream areas. The turtle can be easily transported to its new home in a cardboard box, but make sure to release it during a time of year when the turtle will be able to survive.