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News Why did the turtle cross the road?

Whatever the reason, watch out for them!
5/15/2020
  • MassWildlife's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program
  • Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Media Contact for Why did the turtle cross the road?

Marion Larson, MassWildlife

Eastern box turtle crossing a roadway

Across Massachusetts, spring is the season of movement. Hibernating animals emerge from their winter resting areas in search of food and mates. Turtles are no exception. From mid-May to early July, thousands of turtles throughout Massachusetts travel to new areas to find food and nest. You may find turtles on roadways, in your backyard, or other unexpected locations as they move across the landscape to find resources they need to survive. Even if it’s not apparent to you where they’re headed, turtles have a keen sense of direction and may be on their way to wetlands or open, upland sites such as lawns, gravel pits, or roadsides for nesting. If you find a turtle, do not move it far away.

“Adult turtles can live past 80 years. Young turtles and eggs, on the other hand, have a variety of predators and a low chance of reaching adulthood,” says Dr. Mike Jones, MassWildlife State Herpetologist. "This is why it's especially important to protect older adult turtles from cars, especially during this time of year when turtles are crossing roads more frequently." Losing any adult turtles, particularly adult females, is a serious problem that can lead to the eventual local extinction of a population.

  1. Be safe. Do not risk getting hurt or causing harm to others by unsafely pulling off the road or trying to dodge traffic. If the opportunity to safely move a turtle from the road occurs, move it in the direction it was heading and off the edge of the road. The turtle is trying to get to habitats and resources it needs and knows. Do not take turtles home or move them to a "better” location; turtles should not be moved more than 100 yards from where they are found. Most turtles should be grasped gently along the shell edge near the mid-point of the body. However, snapping turtles are fast and have very powerful jaws that can inflict a bad bite. A snapping turtle can reach your hands if you lift it by the sides of its shell. If you must move a snapping turtle, use a broom to coax it into a plastic tub or box. Never lift a snapping turtle only by the tail; this can injure their spine. 
  2. Slow down. Watch for turtles on roadways bordered by wetlands on both sides. These areas are commonly used as crossing points. Also, remember areas where you’ve seen turtles crossing in the past. Turtles are animals of repetition and chances are, more turtles will likely cross there or somewhere close by.
  3. Inform us. If you see turtles crossing the road, report it! Information that you provide on the Linking Landscapes online portal helps MassWildlife and MassDOT prioritize transportation projects to help turtles and other wildlife safely cross roads and keep drivers safe. Just as importantly, contact your town Conservation Commission and local conservation partners to evaluate resources within your town to help turtles. Signage, barrier fencing, or seasonal speed bumps help reduce roadkill.

Massachusetts is home to ten different native species of turtles, not including five species of sea turtles that frequent our coastal areas. Six of the ten species are protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Learn more in our Guide to Turtles of Massachusetts.

Media Contact for Why did the turtle cross the road?

MassWildlife's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program 

The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program is responsible for the conservation and protection of hundreds of species that are not hunted, fished, trapped, or commercially harvested in the state, as well as the protection of the natural communities that make up their habitats.

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife 

MassWildlife is responsible for the conservation of freshwater fish and wildlife in the Commonwealth, including endangered plants and animals. MassWildlife restores, protects, and manages land for wildlife to thrive and for people to enjoy.
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