Turtles, They aren’t Rocks on the Road

Published June 6, 2008 | Conservation Office | Automatically Archived on 12/31/2010

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Turtles, They Aren’t Rocks on the Road

Turtles, some may think of them as pets, others, distant stoic creatures in a pond or woodland. Some may even think of them as rocks in the road! It is getting to be around that time of year again where turtles are going to be crossing the roads. Roads are a major source of mortality that box turtles, snapping turtles, and all turtles in general are ill-adapted to deal with.

Why are they trying to cross-roads? Snappers, for instance, will travel extensively overland to reach new habitat or to lay eggs. Overcrowding, habitat destruction (including increased roadways), pollution, food scarcity, and other factors will force snappers to across land; it is common to find them traveling far from the nearest water source. This is true as well for many other turtle species. Various turtle species mate from April through November, with (photo copyright Debbie Dineen/Longshots Photos ) their peak laying season in June and July. Female snappers travel over land to find sandy soil to lay their eggs in, and often this location may be some distance from water.

The earliest known turtles date from about 215 million years ago, making turtles one of the oldest reptile groups. They are a more ancient group than snakes and  lizards. Since they have been around for so long, we ask that you be mindful of them and other wildlife around you. Snapping turtles have a reputation for being the bad kids on the block. If you leave them alone, they will not bother you at all. In fact, if you see a snapping turtle digging a nest, take time to watch from a distance and you will be rewarded with observing several dozen golf ball sized eggs dropping into the nest. Don’t try to move or pick up snapping turtles as their necks, head and beak can reach out the full length of their bodies. You can guide them out of the path of traffic if it is safe for you to do so. If it is not safe, go around the turtles on the road. Always remember to put turtles back down in the direction they were heading in. If you do remove a turtle from a road, be very careful—watch for other vehicles because it can be dangerous to walk on and across roads anywhere.

Victoria Parsons

Board of Health and Conservation Commission

Technical Assistant