Of the seven families of turtles native to the U.S. and Canada, there are 37 genera that include 88 species. Some enter the pet trade by accident or intention.

Living in southern Nevada as a child in the 1960s, it was common to see people who took a tortoise from the wild and made it into a pet. Typically, they drilled a hole through the shell near a hind leg, hooked it up to a dog chain, and let it live in the backyard. Even then, people did dumb things like paint the upper shell segments in garish tones like it too was part of the Flower Power movement.

But before getting too far along, let’s understand turtles. The term encompasses both the land-dwelling tortoises as well as the aquatic species known as terrapins.

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