“May and June are busy months for local turtles….”


Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

by Brian JP Cronin

from The Highlands Current, June 7, 2024

While out for a run, I once came across a snapping turtle in the middle of the road.
A woman was blocking traffic but said she was too nervous to move the turtle since
she had heard that they bite, which is true!
It’s right there in their name.
I offered to help. I firmly grasped the turtle by the rear of its shell, out of the way
of its jaws and claws. The turtle did not care for this. It thrashed the claws furiously and
its mouth snapped at impressive speed. As I learned, snapping turtles are anxious when
out of the water, especially when airborne.
I bring this up because, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, now is the time to Give
Turtles a Brake. May and June are busy months for local turtles as they search for sandy areas or loose soil to lay their eggs.
Thousands of turtles in New York are killed by vehicles every year; at the same time, most native species are on the decline.
Because it takes about 10 years for turtles to reach breeding age and because they lay just one small clutch annually, the loss of
even a single pregnant turtle can decimate the local population for years.
If it’s not the snapping variety, moving a turtle across a road is easy. Using both hands, gently lift it by the sides of the shell
and carry it in the same direction it was headed. Do not redirect the turtle to a creek or stream;

the turtle knows what it wants better than you do.

And do not take the turtle home, because you need a permit. That could go without saying, but I’ve heard
from DEC officers that people have kept deer in their homes under the false belief
that it’s legal if the deer has been in your home for a certain number of weeks.
If it is a snapping turtle, and you have access to car mats, pick the turtle up by its shell about three-quarters of the way
back. (Do not underestimate the reach of that short and stubby neck.) You may be tempted to drag the turtle by its alluring
and highly grabbable tail, but its tailbones are connected to the rest of its skeleton so that is a quick way to dislocate its spine.
Once you (safely!) have hold of the turtle, place it on a car mat and drag it across the road. You may need to spin the mat around
so your hands are not within reach of its jaws, but remember to spin it again when you reach the roadside. If you have a blanket, so much the better.

In a pinch, you could use a shovel. If you don’t have any of those tools, you’ll have to carry the turtle. Keep it low to the
ground and be prepared for the turtle to thrash (again, watch out for the claws).

Remember that, as unpleasant as the experience may seem to be for the turtle, it beats
getting hit by a car.

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