Louisiana Exotic Animal Resource Network
Louisiana Exotic Animal Resource Network
Rescue Locally. Educate Globally.

Introduction to Herpetology Blog

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Never Release Captives Into the Wild!

So you bought a reptile. You care about it to some degree. Maybe you managed to keep it alive for years, but you didn’t realize it would live so long or get so big. Now you have to move for work and you can’t figure out how to take it with you, or you have a new spouse that won’t live with “that animal,” or you realized you “have been meaning to get it a properly sized cage for years and still haven’t done that.”

 Whatever the reason, you have decided not to keep it anymore. Setting aside the relative morality of considering pets disposable, what do you do?
Boa Constrictor photo by Armin Meier
Boa Constrictor photo by Armin Meier
Maybe you asked around to see if friends or family wanted it, with no takers. Perhaps you placed an ad online and no one responded, or the people replied didn’t seem like good homes. Maybe someone recommended euthanizing the animal, but you can’t bring yourself to do that. Maybe it never occurred to you to look for an exotic rescue, or maybe you searched and couldn’t find one or they were all full up. Now your time is up and you still have it.

You think to yourself, “I know a place in the woods with lots for a critter to eat, and there are not many people around, and I’ve never seen any predators there…” You remember the sign at the pet store that said, “Never release captive animals into the wild!” You think to yourself, “I tried to find a home and failed, what else can I do?” So, you bring your pet somewhere that “seems like a good place” and let it go, hoping it will be ok.

I have news for you.
It will NOT be ok.

Even if it were ok, it is not a natural part of that ecosystem and the risks you expose your pet and the resident animals to can be severe. If your pet is lucky, something will kill it and eat it. If your pet is unlucky, it will last the season and still be around when winter comes. At best, the likely options your animal faces are a fast death or a slow death. At worst, your pet just introduced microbes into the environment that the native animals have no immunity to, and you just wiped out an entire population. You may be able to put your pet’s future out of your mind, but it will still be suffering.

It happens all too often that L.E.A.R.N. goes on rescue calls for non-native animals. It also happens that veterinarians call asking for guidance because someone brought in a tropical herp that they found almost dead on their back porch the morning after a cold snap. You may not see what a slow death to a hardy animal looks like, but that doesn’t mean it is not taking place. 

Trust me, if your only choices are release or euthanasia—the answer is obvious. Being humanely euthanized is infinitely preferable to the rigors of the wild for an animal that is accustomed to being provided for. You may feel bad or sad, but the proper response is to learn from the experience and resolve not to enter into commitments lightly in the future. The right answer is never to dump your pet out in the woods and forget about it. 

It may be hard to find a different solution.
Find one anyway.

Midland Painted Turtle photo by Tim Spuckler
Midland Painted Turtle photo by Tim Spuckler
Unfortunately, herps are not the only animals that get introduced to the environment, whether intentionally or by accident. It is imperative that you secure your pet and protect it and the wild from each other. Non-natives can cause local ecosystems a great deal of trouble—don’t make it worse!
Never Release Captives Into the Wild!
November 20, 2018
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Louisiana Exotic Animal Resource Network is a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation and animal rescue that focuses heavily on global conservation and herpetological education. Content is © All rights reserved, unless otherwise noted.
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