Nature Watch: Give turtles a brake!

By Cheryl Conley, TWRC Wildlife Center

I brake for turtles. Do you?

With the warmer weather, turtles are going to be on the move soon. They are most likely looking for a mate or the females are looking for a nesting site. It could be that they’re just looking for a good meal. Whatever the reason, cars and turtles don’t mix.

If you’re like me and want to help turtles crossing roads, here are a few helpful hints:

  • Safety first. Always be aware of other vehicles. Pull off the road and turn on your hazard flashers.
  • If there’s no traffic, it’s best to let the turtle cross on its own.
  • Don’t put the turtle in your car and relocate it. Eastern box turtles, for example, only travel within about a 2-mile radius throughout their lives. They have a homing instinct and move about within their home territory. Removing them from their home will cause undo stress and shorten their lives.
  • Always move the turtle in the same direction it was going, as far off the road as you can place it.
  • Be gentle. Grasp the turtle’s shell edge at about the mid-point of the body. If it’s a snapping turtle, grasp the shell at the back of the body to protect yourself from a bite. In either case, you can then lift the turtle and place it on the side of the road. You can also place the turtle on a floor mat or piece of clothing and slide it.
  • Once the turtle is safely placed on the side of the road out of danger, sanitize your hands. We’ve all gotten pretty good at that!

What should you do if you find an injured turtle? Believe it or not, turtles with damaged shells can recover but it’s important to get help as quickly as possible. Call a local wildlife center first to make sure they will accept the animal and follow their instructions. Don’t try to feed the turtle or give it water. Place it in a box and put it in a quiet area until you can get help.

Houston area wildlife centers:

Friends of Texas Wildlife

TWRC Wildlife Center

Wildlife Center of Texas

You can also check the Texas Parks & Wildlife website for individual rehabilitators.

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