By Paul Erdmann, Conservation Director
Road mortality is a serious threat to many different species of wildlife. As temperatures warm, turtles, frogs, snakes, and other amphibians and reptiles begin stirring, sunning themselves, and moving across roads. Turtles are especially vulnerable to injury or death by automobile. You can help turtles and other wildlife, but remember- SAFETY FIRST!
In late May and June, female turtles look for open sunny areas to lay their eggs, sometimes up to a mile away from their aquatic home. Males and non-breeding turtles seek out temporary or new habitats. Turtles migrate back to waterbodies in the late summer and early fall. All of this movement puts turtles in danger from our many roads, cars, and distracted drivers. Scientists estimate that painted turtles can live as long as 40 years in the wild, while Blanding’s and snapping turtles can live more than 70! Isn’t it a shame to see one killed by our cars? In 2015, one volunteer logged over 100 dead turtles on the roads around Bush Lake (Bloomington) alone. But she also helped many turtles safely cross the road. The volunteer collected data using a new mapping tool, called HerpMapper, sanctioned by the MN DNR. Collected data on both live and dead turtles can be provided to natural resource managers and city and highway departments, as innovative "turtle tunnels" are now being built in areas of high mortality. Check out all of the cool wildlife the Washington County turtle tunnel has saved on the MDNR Nongame Wildlife Program Facebook page (and lots of other cool wildlife photos): https://www.facebook.com/pg/MinnesotaNongameWildlifeProgram/photos/?tab=albums
How Can You Help Turtles?
- Never put yourself or others in danger! If you are driving, safely park and turn on hazard lights to alert others to slow down. Be aware of your surroundings and traffic.
- Allow turtles to cross on their own, unassisted, if there is no traffic.
- If you need to speed it up, grasp all turtles, EXCEPT snapping turtles, gently along the edge of the shell near the mid-point of the body. Turtles may be excited and use the bathroom, don't drop it!
- Snapping turtles should NEVER be picked up by the tail (it damages their spinal cord). Use a branch, broomstick, or snow shovel to prod it along from behind. If it bites the object, use it to drag the animal to the other side of the road.
- Maintain direction of travel. Move the turtle to low ground, in a direct line, in the same direction it was traveling. Do NOT remove it from its area of habitat.
- Protect turtle nests you find in your yard with a cage or plate. Protecting nests for a few weeks (until the scent of the nest subsides) from predators gives them a better chance at being successful. Moving turtle nests is rarely successful.
- Advocate for amphibians and reptiles! Support the MN DNR Nongame Wildlife Program and contribute with the Loon Checkoff on your taxes. Contact local and elected officials and let them know you care about protecting them.
- Do a turtle project at your Ike chapter or with a local group. Contact Paul Erdmann at email@example.com for ideas
"Turtles On The Move" video by the City of Bloomington