There are several species of map turtles that are endagered and these species are in some areas illegal to keep without special permits. Since some map turtles are so small, the four-inch law can make it harder to find a good pet specimen.
The four-inch law was passed by the FDA in the United States in 1975 as a measure against the spread of salmonellosis. Turtles under the size of four inches were reportedly spreading salmonellosis to children when children placed these small turtles into their mouth or touched the turtles and then put their fingers in their mouths. The four-inch law makes it illegal to sell turtles under 4 inches in a commercial setting.
Males of some map turtle species do not exceed four inches in length even in adulthood limiting their availability in the pet trade.
It is however important to remember that the four-inch law only apply to pet stores and other public commercial operations. The law states: “Except as otherwise provided in this section, viable turtle eggs and live turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches shall not be sold, held for sale, or offered for any other type of commercial or public distribution.”, Sec. 1240.62 (b). The law also makes an exception for “The sale, holding for sale, and distribution of live turtles and viable turtle eggs not in connection with a business.“, Sec. 1240.62 (d)(2). It is still legal for private hobby breeders to sell map turtles smaller than 4 inches in lenght as long it is truely a hobby and not a business. This means that it still possible to buy the smaller species and smaller specimens of the larger species directly from a breeder. This also have the added benefit of knowing that you get your turtles from a dedicated breeder and turtle lover and not from some faceless turtlefarm. Turtles from private breeders can often be in better health than pet store turtles.
Internet have made buying map turtles directly from private breeders a lot easier and it is today often possible to find small turtles without ever having to leave your home.
There has been some concern in recent years about map turtles in the wild, and the loss of suitable map turtle habitats.
It might be illegal to take a map turtle from the wild in your area. Make sure to research what the regulations are in your area before considering catching a wild turtle to keep as a pet.
Taking turtles from the wild is not recommended regardless of the legaility in your are. Turtles taken from the wild are more likely to carry diseases that can be transferred to other turtles they share the enclosure with, or even humans. Turtles that were born in the wild and put into captivity also don’t tend to live as long as turtles that were originally born in captivity and stayed there.