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the Silent Invasion
A red-eared slider.

Not all invasive species are here by accident. Some are here as a result of good intentions gone bad. Have you ever owned a turtle or frog or even a fish you decided to set free in the wild? Not a good idea. So-called "pet dumping" has led to a proliferation of strange, exotic and non-native wildlife taking over some of Oregon's best habitat.

When Timmy the Turtle Goes Terrible

Turtles, iguanas and other exotic species are notoriously cute when they are young. But when they grow up they can quickly outlive their welcome. They get big, they require constant care, and they can smell. Not to mention that some common exotic pets like the red-eared slider turtle can live to be 80 years old! That's where the trouble starts. People who think they're doing the right thing decide to let "Timmy the Turtle" go free in the stream or the woods. There are now enough "dumped" pets in Oregon that they are getting together, breeding, and establishing new populations. But Oregon's wildlife didn't evolve with these new invaders and many local residents like the western pond turtle are being driven out of their home by these introduced invaders.

What do I do with a pet I've outgrown?

If you've outgrown your pet fish, turtle, rabbit, cat or any pet for that matter, never release it into the wild. It's inhumane, it puts our wildlife at risk, and even introduces disease that can spread far and wide. Your best option is to contact your local pet store, humane society, veterinarian or other expert for guidance on appropriate and humane options.

Isn't setting my pet free better than euthanising it?

Euthanization is an option of last resort. But releasing pets into the wild is by no means a "better life" for the animal. A slow death by starvation often results when pets no longer have you to provide regular feedings. Pets that do manage to survive are doing so by eating the food, taking the nests, and otherwise occupying habitat that Oregon's native wildlife needs and that is already in short supply. A pet "set free" in the wild could be responsible for the death of any number of native species. If you can no longer care for your pet, many organizations will try to help you place the animal in another caring home. However, euthenization can be a humane alternative when no other options exist. Releasing pets to the wild is never a good option.

What pets are most invasive?

There is no easy answer to this one. Most pet stores sell only legal species, but the internet is a wild west free-for-all. There are resources to help you make a good, legal pet choice. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Agency publishes a long, detailed list of species that are prohibited for sale or ownership in Oregon. Many species are prohibited specifically because of the threat they pose to Oregon's wildlife if these pets are released intentionally or unintentionally into the wild. That's why agents do regular checks on pet stores and cruise websites like Craigslist to try to keep prohibited species out of Oregon.

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