It’s turtle nesting season in the Northern Hemisphere! Turtles rarely leave their home range for much of the year, but during breeding season they will travel far to find mates or a suitable place to nest. There are 59 species of turtles and tortoises in North America, but you might encounter some species more than others on roads. Depending on your location, it is common to find Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta), Common Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina) [pictured above], and Diamondback Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) attempting to cross roads throughout the East and Central United States. These species suffer from habitat loss and fragmentation as well as the destruction of nesting sites, largely from housing and commercial developments encroaching on the beaches and sandy and soil areas where turtles like to nest. Consequently, females will travel longer distances in search of proper nesting habitat.
Over the course of the next few months, be extra vigilant when driving, mowing the lawn and working in the garden. Keep your eyes peeled and drive slowly when nearing rivers, ponds, wetlands, and marshy areas.
If you see a turtle on the road, the best way to help is to move it to the other side in the direction it was going. Always carry turtles with two hands from the back of the shell. Do not pick it up by the tail which could injure it. Keep in mind that turtles are wild animals and must not be brought into your home. They belong to the wild and are protected by strict laws in most states. Remind your friends and family to do the same!