Low and slow — that’s the turtle. And chances are you may just come across one crossing a road during your travels.
This is the time many egg-bearing aquatic turtles often cross roads in search of terrestrial nesting sites.
“Connecticut’s landscape is highly fragmented by busy roads, and many turtles are forced to travel great distances — and across roadways — to find suitable nesting habitat,” said Rick Jacobson, director of the DEEP Wildlife Division. “Helping a turtle move across the road can be the difference between life and death for the animal, and for future generations, but your safety comes first. Be sure to assist a turtle in the road only when it is safe to do so and do not attempt to stop traffic.”
“Research has shown that aquatic turtle populations across the United States have uncommonly high proportions of males because so many female turtles are being killed on roadways,” Jacobson added.
DEEP says if you can safely help a turtle across a road to follow these guiidelines:
Always keep the turtle pointed in the direction it is going.
Do not move the turtle to a “better spot,” and do not put terrestrial box turtles in a lake, pond, or other water body. Turtles have a home range and females often return to the same general area to lay their eggs.
Snapping turtles can be large, heavy, and feisty, so if you are unable to “shoo” them across the road, pick them up by the back of their shells, not by their tail, to avoid a bite. Some people use a shovel or a stick to push or skid snapping turtles across the road.
Turtles have a long lifespan, take a long time to reach sexual maturity, and have low survivorship when newly hatched. Because of these attributes, turtle populations cannot compensate for losses due to adult mortality without experiencing long-term consequences.
DEEP encourages residents to take photographs of turtles they see and share them at facebook.com/CTFishandWildlife or on a Twitter account set up by students from UConn’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (https://twitter.com/CT_SWAP).
Those interested in learning about Connecticut’s turtles can visit the DEEP’s turtle webpage at ct.gov/deep/yearofturtle.