Protect Turtles From Over-Harvesting

Target: Terry Branstad, Governor of Iowa

Goal: Establish a closed season for the commercial and sport trapping of turtles in Iowa.

Turtle populations are declining in Iowa due to over-harvesting during breeding and egg-laying months. The state currently allows turtles to be trapped for commercial and sporting purposes year-round, causing the snapping turtle, spiny softshell turtle, smooth softshell turtle, and painted turtle to suffer.

In recognition of this problem, the Iowa House and Senate recently passed a law requiring the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to establish a harvest season and enforce bag limits to restrict the amount of turtles being killed. However, the governor has yet to sign the bill because restricting the harvest season will have an impact on the economic benefit of shipping turtles to overseas markets.

Turtles are already a vulnerable species without the added threat of over-harvesting. They are at risk from nest predation, habitat loss, and water pollution, as well as the constant threat of human activity in the form of roads and vehicles. The breeding and nesting process has risks of its own, as turtles are vulnerable targets when they move between nesting sites and less than one egg per clutch will usually survive while the others are caught by predators. Nesting sites can also be damaged by flooding or by droughts which dry out the wetland habitat.

The only way that turtle populations can begin to increase to a sustainable level is if they are protected during their breeding and nesting seasons. A closed harvest season would make a huge difference in restoring the decreasing population of Iowa’s turtles, and the bill would also require the Department of Natural Resources to study the turtle population for the next four years to discover other ways in which they are threatened.

The commercial and sporting harvest of Iowa’s turtles needs to be closed from January 1st through July 15th in keeping with the protective regulations set in place by the new bill. Sign the petition below to urge Governor Branstad to sign the bill and give the turtles a chance to maintain and hopefully increase their declining populations.


Dear Governor Branstad,

Turtle populations are suffering in Iowa due to over-harvesting during breeding and egg-laying months, and will only be able to sustain or increase their current population if they are protected. The Iowa House and Senate recently passed a bill that would require the Department of Natural Resources to close commercial and sporting harvest from January 1st to July 15th and establish bag limits to regulate the amount of turtles being killed. This bill, House File 2357, needs your support.

Turtles are already at risk from habitat loss, water pollution, and nest predation. Six states surrounding Iowa have already ended all turtle harvest due to population decrease, and Iowa needs to follow their example and take action to protect these threatened species. The bill would also require Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources to study the turtle population for the next four years, which is vitally important in discovering the full extent of threats and risks.

Iowa’s turtles cannot be allowed to die out due to over-harvesting. I am urging you to sign 2357 and ensure that a closed harvest season is enforced. Please take action to protect Iowa’s turtles and stand with the House and Senate to ensure their survival.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Daniel McDermott

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  1. Shelli Schmidt says:

    How can anyone kill a turtle, they’re so cool..Never understand. some people.

  2. Maud van Tol says:

    Killing, a sport???

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