Thursday, June 6, 2024

Remember to Give Turtles ‘A Brake’

painted turtle

The months of May and June mark the start of fair weather and with it, the emergence of New York’s native turtle species! They are migrating to habitat for basking, foraging, and nesting. Female turtles are seeking nesting areas to lay their eggs and may need to risk crossing roads to get to these habitats. Unfortunately, thousands of turtles are killed each year when struck by vehicles in New York State. Please never remove a turtle from the wild to ‘rescue’ it or take it to an area with fewer roads. Turtles are familiar with the landscape and may try to return, and risk crossing more roads. Removing even one adult female turtle from the wild can hurt local populations.

  • Reduce traveling speed—where safe to do so—and stay vigilant around ponds and wetlands, or other turtle crossing hot spots (turtle crossing signs).
  • Stop only if you can safely do so, signal properly when pulling over, and park entirely off the road.
  • Do not pick turtles up by their tails. Doing so can dislocate or fracture the tail bones and other tissues. Most turtles won’t injure you when handled, so they can be picked up safely by the sides of their shells. Move the turtle off the road in the direction they are facing.

What if it’s a snapping turtle?

  • Snapping turtles have an extremely muscular jaw and long necks that can ‘snap’ or extend backwards over the shell to inflict a defensive bite. (*Safety note*: snapping turtles can spin quickly and kick vigorously when gripped and lifted – use appropriate caution.)
  • Using thick gloves, grip them by the rear shell above the tail and slide your hand under the shell to safely lift and carry across the road.

All amphibians and reptiles native to New York, including native turtles, are protected by New York State Environmental Conservation Law. Leave turtles in the wild—do not take them home as pets. Learn more about turtles and how you can help on the DEC website.

Photo at top: Painted turtle on road. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Doyle-Ashline.

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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.

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