BILLINGS — The Humane Society is offering to take people's unwanted pet red-eared slider turtles and release them in Texas, where they are a native species.
Red-eared sliders now are illegal to own in Montana without a permit. Red-eared sliders are popular pets but also an invasive species.
The goal of the one-time offer to collect red-eared sliders and truck them to Burro Lake in Texas is to prevent as many as possible from being released into lakes in Montana.
"Red-eared sliders are on the list of the 100 most invasive species in the world," said Allison Begley of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. "They're omnivores. They eat anything, and they adapt to any habitat."
Several Montana waters already have been invaded by red-eared slider turtles.
Dave Pauli with the Humane Society plans to keep the collected red-eared sliders in large ponds, where they can be adapted to live in the wild.
Turtles that are able to catch food on their own will be set aside for release.
Anyone who has owned a red-eared slider earlier than July doesn't have to surrender the animal. The state will allow people to buy a state permit to keep red-eared sliders they bought before that date.
Owning an unregistered turtle can result in a $100 fine.