Guest column / CT DEEP
Updated 8:39 pm, Thursday, June 14, 2012
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reminds residents to be on the lookout for turtles crossing roads. The months of May and June are the nesting season for many turtles. At this time, egg-bearing aquatic turtles often cross roads in search of terrestrial nesting sites.
"Helping a turtle move across the road can be the difference between life and death for the animal and for future generations, but your safety comes first," said Rick Jacobson, director of the DEEP Wildlife Division. "Be sure to assist a turtle in the road only when it is safe to do so and do not attempt to stop traffic."
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Snapping turtles can be large, heavy and feisty, so if you are unable to "shoo" them across the road, pick them up by the back of their shells, NOT by their tail, to avoid a bite. Some people use a shovel or a stick to push or skid snapping turtles across the road. Always keep the turtle pointed in the direction it is going. If you turn it around in the other direction, the turtle will only make another attempt to cross the road. Also, do not move the turtle to a "better spot." Turtles have a home range and females often return to the same general area to lay their eggs.
"Connecticut's landscape is highly fragmented by busy roads, and many turtles are forced to travel greater distances to find suitable nesting habitat," Jacobson said. "Research has shown that aquatic turtle populations across the United States have uncommonly high proportions of males because so many female turtles are being killed on roadways."
Turtles have a long lifespan, take a long time to reach sexual maturity, and have low survivorship when newly hatched. Because of these attributes, turtle populations cannot compensate for losses due to adult mortality without experiencing long-term consequences. With turtle populations requiring high levels of adult survivorship, every individual is important to a population's stability. This concern is even greater in recent years because many U.S. turtle populations are becoming fragmented, isolated, and progressively smaller.
In your travels, if you encounter a turtle in the road, just remember this: "If it is safe, help turtles cross the road." If you are interested in learning about Connecticut's turtles, visit the DEEP's turtle webpage at www.ct.gov/deep/yearofturtle.
Dwayne Gardner is a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.