A turtle on the loose in Hay River, N.W.T. could wreak havoc on the local ecosystem, says an Alberta reptile expert.

Shelly, a red-eared slider, escaped from a backyard on Beaver Crescent in Hay River on Saturday. The turtle is described as about the size of a dinner plate.

Dave Law, who runs the Alberta Turtle and Tortoise Society, says it's important the turtle is found.

"The red-eared slider will eat everything and anything." he said. "It'll even eat a bird. They eat mice, they eat insects, fish — you name it — and they will completely destroy an ecosystem."

Law says turtles like to hide in covered areas. He suggests looking under wood piles and in long grass.

He says anyone who finds the turtle should put it in a dry bin and keep the temperature between 15 and 20 C, but after a couple of hours, the turtle should go in water.