NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Turtles have called North Dakota home for millions of years, but in today’s world, they face modern threats.

Right now, they are collected and sold on the black market across the country, even in North Dakota.

And the government is trying to stop this.

According to North Dakota Game & Fish, there are 5 species of turtle in our state.

From the snapping turtle to the painted turtle, they each play an important role in North Dakota’s ecosystem.

So, stealing any number of them can upset our environment.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife found several communities in Asia are specifically buying American turtles at an alarming rate on the black market for food, pets, and decoration.

This breaks both federal and state laws.

Now, several federal agencies are working together in border states, like North Dakota, and at ports of entry to prevent the smuggling of our turtles.

“I think it’s important to note that wildlife inspectors at the ports of entry across the United States are there looking, and we know a lot about this trade from intelligence information sharing with our partners at the state and other federal agencies working. And we’re finding these turtles being exported out of the United States in inhumane conditions,” said Supervisory Wildlife Inspector for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Joe Rousseau.

Fish and Wildlife do not have an exact number of turtles smuggled out of the country each year, but these smuggled turtles face almost certain death when they arrive at their destination.

And many die on the way to their destination.

Smugglers have been known to shove turtles in socks, boxes with no air and even in children’s toys.

To look over North Dakota’s turtle laws, check “The Turtle Owner” site here.