SAVING THE FEISTY TURTLE: Do your part to ensure species survival

Residents should be on the lookout for turtles crossing roads, especially in June.

May and June are the nesting season for many turtles and during this time of the year, 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, Wildlife Division director for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

May through June is a critical period when female turtles undertake risky overland forays to reach nesting areas. —Photo by Paul J. Fusco/DEEP Wildlife Division

May through June is a critical period when female turtles undertake risky overland forays to reach nesting areas. —Photo by Paul J. Fusco/DEEP Wildlife Division

Turtle populations cannot compensate for losses due to adult mortality without experiencing long-term consequences.”

“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,” Jacobson said. “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,” said Jacobson.

Turtles can be feisty

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,” 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.

Low survivorship when hatched

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 population’s 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.”

Let people know

DEEP is also encouraging residents to take photographs of any turtles they observe as they enjoy the outdoors and share them on the Connecticut Fish and Wildlife Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CTFishandWildlife, or on a Twitter account set up by students from UConn’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (twitter.com/CT_SWAP).

Those interested in learning about Connecticut’s turtles can visit the DEEP’s turtle website.

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