Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Give Turtles a Brake in recognition of World Turtle Day

Wood Turtle

In recognition of World Turtle Day® on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos reminded New Yorkers that turtles are nesting in May and June, and asked motorists to “give turtles a brake.” In New York, thousands of turtles are killed each year by unsuspecting drivers when turtles cross roads to find nesting areas.

“While a turtle’s shell provides protection from predators, it does not protect against being struck by vehicles while crossing roadways,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Vehicle strikes are a major cause of mortality among turtles and New York’s native turtles are more susceptible at this time of year as they seek sandy areas or loose soil in which to lay their eggs. Especially in these coming weeks, DEC urges drivers to be on the lookout for turtles and slow down, particularly on roads near rivers and marshy areas.”

Drivers who see a turtle on the road are encouraged to slow down to avoid hitting it with their vehicle. If the vehicle can safely stop and drivers are able to safely do so, motorists should consider moving the turtle to the shoulder on the side of the road in the direction it was facing. Motorists are advised not to pick turtles up by their tails, which could injure the turtle. Most turtles, other than snapping turtles, can be picked up safely by the sides of their shells. Snapping turtles have necks that can reach far back and have a strong bite, so if motorists try to help a snapping turtle, they should pick it up by the rear of the shell near the tail using both hands, or slide a car mat under the turtle to drag it safely across the road. Do not drag the turtle by the tail as doing so can dislocate the tail bones.

licensed wildlife rehabilitator may be able to help if an injured turtle is found.

Painted Turtle

Painted Turtle. NYS DEC photo.

DEC reminds people not to take turtles home. All native turtles are protected by law and cannot be kept without a DEC permit. Most of the 11 species of land turtles that are native to New York are in decline. Turtles are long-lived species and it takes many years for a turtle to reach maturity. Even losing one mature female can have a negative impact on a local population. Learn more about New York’s native turtles at DEC’s website.

Four species of sea turtles can be found in New York waters, and these turtles are all either threatened or endangered. Visit DEC’s website to learn more about sea turtles. Anyone that encounters a sea turtle on the beach should not put it back in the water, instead the public is advised to call the New York State 24-Hour Stranding Hotline at (631) 369-9829 and a trained responder will provide instructions.

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle. NYS DEC photo.

To help turtles and other wildlife, New Yorkers are encouraged to:

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rethink: these are simple steps to help protect all wildlife;
  • Don’t litter: unwanted trash makes its way just about everywhere, including into our creeks, lakes, rivers, and the ocean;
  • Don’t release balloons or lanterns: releasing balloons into the environment is potentially fatal for many different wildlife, including sea turtles that commonly mistake balloons and plastic bags for prey items like jellyfish;
  • Volunteer for beach and park clean-ups; and
  • Stay informed and share your knowledge with others.

DEC recognizes May 23 as World Turtle Day®. American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle, created World Turtle Day® to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. These gentle animals have been around for 200 million years, yet are rapidly disappearing due to smuggling, the exotic food industry, climate change, loss of habitat, and the illegal pet trade.

Follow @NYSDEC’s social media accounts on May 23 for more information about turtles in the state.

In honor of World Turtle Day, check out this Adirondack Explorer story by Chloe Bennett: https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/stories/make-way-for-turtles

Photo at top: Wood Turtle. NYS DEC photo.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

7 Responses

  1. Plow Boy says:

    I have been known to stop and get a turtle off the road. In the case of snapping turtles, a good stick allows them to be dragged off the road after they bite on stick. It feels good to do a good deed.

    • Boreas says:

      I always try to stop and move them in the direction they are headed. Same with snakes. Moose – not so much.

  2. Charlie Stehlin says:

    I saw a dead turtle up on a Washington County road just last week, an eastern painted I believe. In the middle of the road. Turtles don’t move fast. Some people just don’t have it in them to do what’s right. You know, like stop and pluck the fellers from the road, like place them out of harm’s way! Some of us just don’t have the time, nor are they of the mind, to do such. We got things to do! It’s only a turtle! It’s easier to run it over then it is to stop and do what’s right. This is part of our disease! The effects of! I stopped and I’m glad it was dead, out of its misery with the sun beating down on it the way it was. I was glad it was dead because I know how long it takes for turtles to die and I just didn’t want to go through that once again, to watch it slowly die.

  3. Mike says:

    Maybe Basil Seggos can hire HanmiGlobal for another couple hundred thousand dollars of taxpayers money to manage turtles. They are here anyway telling us how to manage trails and South Koreans are great at cooking endangered turtles.

  4. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “Here’s what can happen when you ‘stop and pluck the fellers from the road’.”

    Yeah but I wouldn’t stop and watch the turtle as it crossed the road JohnL! I mean what would be the point in stopping if you’re going to be mindless and watch the feller cross, which in turn will get run over anyway being that 95% of us can give two hoots about a ‘stupid’ turtle crossing a road!

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