Can a Tortoise Be Released Into The Wild

Can a Tortoise Be Released Into The Wild? Is It Safe?

Owning a tortoise can be a lifelong commitment depending on the specific breed you have a short life for a tortoise can be 25 years. This commitment can become too much for some people. You may have no other choice but to rehome our tortoise. The idea of releasing a tortoise into the wild may come to mind and may even sound romantic. However, is it lawful to do where you are and is it safe for the wildlife and your tortoise?

You should never release a tortoise into the wild and can carry a hefty fine in many US states. There’s a chance of unwillingly spreading diseases to wild animals, which will harm the ecosystem. The exposition to this is when you are releasing a wild tortoise back into the wild.

That’s the short and sweet answer, but there are a few caveats that could catch you out and why it’s such a bad idea. We cover some better options if you have a tortoise that you can no longer care for any longer.

Reasons Why It Is a Bad Idea to Release a Tortoise Into the Wild

Taking a captive breed tortoise and releasing it into the wild is never a good idea, and here are the reasons why:

  • It is unlikely that your tortoise is a native to the area that you will be releasing them into this could dramatically affect the ecosystem. Tortoises will carry different diseases not harmful to your tortoise but would be detrimental to other animals.
  • Releasing a captive breed tortoise into the wild that’s had all its needs taken care of will have little knowledge of living in the wild. The experience of predators will be zero and not forgetting human-made dangers like cars.
  • Tortoise in the wild gets knowledge of their local area from parents to forage food and water successfully. It is unlikely they will have adequate time to learn their new surrounding before becoming to the wild.
  • The climate will need to be dealt with, and a foreign environment to their natural habitat is unlikely to have what the tortoise needs. The weather will need to keep at a temperature to keep your tortoise alive and drop cold enough so the tortoise can eventually hibernate.
  • In all states, it is illegal to release animals into the wild, and in some instances, it carries a large fine and possible jail time.

For all these reasons, I think it’s fair to say that releasing a captive breed tortoise into the wild should never be done. There are circumstances where a wild tortoise that has been captured from the wild legally or illegally can be returned to the wild. However, this should be done as quickly as possible, so they don’t lose their local knowledge of the area.

When Is It Legitimate to Take a Tortoise From the Wild and Return It?

There are very few instances that make it legitimate to take a wild animal from the wild. The only example I can think of is when you are removing a wild animal injured to rehabilitate. However, this should only ever be done by a licensed person.

The license they hold will stipulate whether they can release the animal back into the wild once treated. The license holder will need to show that the tortoise has not picked any external parasites or diseases while in captivity. As an individual, you will unlikely be able to do this as it could introducing parasites or diseases into the wild, causing damage to the ecosystem.

If you don’t hold a license to handle wild animals, there are no instances where you should be touching or interfering with a wild animal. Even when you believe you see a tortoise in danger, for example, near a road, it would be best practice to call the professionals.

Can’t Release My Tortoise to the Wild So What Should I Do?

If you find yourself in a situation where you can no longer care for your tortoise, you will need to find them a new home. The reality is it’s much harder to do than you think and maybe the reason you are looking if it’s ok to releases a tortoise into the wild.

Asking friends and family should be your first port of call when looking to rehome a tortoise. The length of time you require someone to have your tortoise will have a large bearing on how many volunteers. If it is a short stay, you are likely to have many takers, something a little more permanent, and you will have fewer people willing to commit.

Asking on tortoise forums and tortoise Facebook groups should be your next step if your family and friend’s route fails. Logistically it may be harder to get your tortoise to someone on the other side of the country. However, you know you will be handing over your tortoise to someone who knows how to care for it correctly.

Charities will then be the logical next step to see if you have any local animal sanctuary in your area. You could possible be very lucky and have a tortoise charity in your place.

Some people attempt the sell their tortoise; however, you will need to make sure you have all your paperwork in place. Some tortoises will need paperwork to be sold, and without them, it would be illegal to sell.

Why Do Tortoises Try to Escape?

Tortoise never seems to lose their wild instincts to wander and forage. Even captive bred tortoises, and this could be the reason they have survived so long. So, given a chance, they will try to escape at any given opportunity. It is nothing personal it is just your tortoise instinct kicking in.

Because of this instinct, you will need to make sure your outside enclosure is very secure, and there is no escape route out of your yard.

Is It Cruel to Keep a Tortoise as a Pet?

Keeping a tortoise as a pet is not cruel however what is cruel is not offering them the living environment they require to stay healthy is cruel. Learn about your tortoise needs both heating and eating are crucial to maintaining a happy, healthy tortoise.

Many people look for excuses not to keep a tortoise, and this is one of them. You don’t need an excuse if you no longer want to care for a tortoise. However, you need to be responsible and find them a suitable new home, and the wild is not the place.

Are You Unsure You Will Commit to a Tortoise?

If you are unsure that you will be able to commit to a tortoise for their whole lives, it could be more than a human’s life. Don’t make the purchase.

A tortoise can outlive most humans, so this is a significant consideration when you are looking into owning a tortoise. Many people’s final decision is Hermann’s Tortoise vs. Russian Tortoise due to their relatively shorter life than other tortoise species.


We first looked at many of the reasons why it would be bad for your tortoise and the environment releasing it into the wild. Also, it may end up with you having a large fine or even jail time in some states.

Take practical steps in rehoming your tortoise was the next section. Whatever the events are that you need to rehome a tortoise taking a logical approach is best. Friends and family followed by tortoise groups and finally, charities should yield a new home for your tortoise.

Rehoming a tortoise takes a little time and patience as they are such a big commitment. But never be tempted to release your tortoise into the wild.

Don’t feel bad as a tortoise owner if your tortoise is always trying to escape. In most cases, this is nothing personal and more their wild instinct kicking in more than you as an owner.