The spotted turtle's alluring features — its diminutive size, smooth black shell and dainty yellow speckles — have unfortunately contributed to its decline, since its charisma has made it a favorite of the pet trade. This turtle is often on the move, typically visiting multiple wetlands throughout the year to forage, mate, thermoregulate and spend the winter. These can't be just any wetlands — the spotted turtle needs clear, clean water; a soft substrate; and aquatic or emergent vegetation. The species' specific behaviors and habitat needs make the spotted turtle vulnerable to habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and road mortality, as well as overcollection and climate change.

In order to protect the spotted turtle from the pet trade (and exotic food trade), in 2011 the Center petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose it for protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Thankfully, the turtle received CITES protection in 2013. The spotted turtle was also included in the Center's petition to protect 53 amphibians and reptiles under the Endangered Species Act, and in 2015 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made an initial finding that the turtle may qualify for protections under the Act.