Turtle derbies are an Independence Day tradition in some Maryland communities, but the state's natural resource officers are warning about the possibility of bacterial outbreaks related to handling the reptiles.
Natural resources officials are warning only pet turtles should be used in the annual races. Officials say when turtles that are raced in the local derbies are collected from the wild, they can spread disease to pets or other wild turtles they come in contact with.
It's also illegal in the state to release into the wild reptiles or amphibians that have been in captivity without authorization from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating several outbreaks of salmonella in humans associated with exposure to small pet turtles. Salmonella can be fatal in children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.