DEEP: Turtles and Roads Are a Deadly Combination

May 18, 2011
 
Turtles and Roads Are a Deadly Combination
2011 Is the Year of the Turtle

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as part of its Year of the Turtle awareness campaign with Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC), reminds residents to be on the lookout for turtles crossing roads. The months of May and June are the nesting season for many turtles. At this time, egg-bearing, female aquatic turtles leave the water to find terrestrial nesting sites, and this often requires crossing a road.

"Helping a turtle move across the road can be the difference between life and death for the animal, and for future generations," said Rick Jacobson, Director of the DEP Wildlife Division. "Be sure to assist a turtle only when it is safe to stop, pull over to the shoulder (if you are driving), and move the turtle across the road. Do not attempt to stop traffic; your safety comes first."

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. Always keep the turtle pointed in the direction it is going. If you turn it around in the other direction, the turtle will only make another attempt to cross the road. Also, DO NOT move the turtle to a "better spot." Turtles have a home range and females often return to the same general area to lay their eggs.

"Connecticutís landscape is highly fragmented by busy roads, and many turtles are forced to travel greater distances to find suitable nesting habitat," continued Jacobson. 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. 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. With turtle populations requiring high levels of adult survivorship, every individual is important to a populationís stability. This concern is even greater in recent years because many U.S. turtle populations are becoming fragmented, isolated, and progressively smaller.

In your travels, if you encounter a turtle in the road, just remember this motto: "If it is safe, help turtles cross the road." You can learn about turtles during the Year of the Turtle by visiting the DEPís "Year of the Turtle" Web page at www.ct.gov/dep/yearofturtle, as well as subscribe to the Wildlife Divisionís Connecticut Wildlife magazine (www.ct.gov/dep/wildlifemagazine). You also can visit PARCs Web site at www.yearoftheturtle.org.