Indiana and Kentucky Wildlife Alert: Safe Ways to Help Turtles Cross the Road this Spring
It is turtle season! As they wake up from their winter hibernation our four-legged friends are going to be looking for a place to breed and lay eggs. This means we are going to start seeing lots of turtles on the move across Indiana and Kentucky.
There's a Right Way to Help a Turtle Cross the Road
We've all been there - we're driving along and we spot a turtle crossing the road. For some of us, the need to stop and help the turtle cross the road - and prevent it from being squashed by another motorist - is overwhelming. But there's a right way to help a turtle cross the road.
Always Move a Turtle in Its Original Direction of Travel
Obviously, you want to make sure that it's safe to stop and help, ensuring that you yourself don't end up getting squashed. When moving a turtle you have found in the road, you should always simply move it to the side of the road. Which side? I'm so glad you asked because that's the really important part! Make sure you move the turtle to the side of the road that it was traveling to reach.
How to Safely Pick Up a Turtle
When picking up a turtle to be moved, always pick it up from the sides. Do not pick it up by the tail. If you encounter a snapping turtle, despite its nasty demeanor, you can move it by using heavy gloves, a blanket, or even a sweatshirt to protect your hands while picking it up - again from the sides and never the tail.
Western Kentucky Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation says that if the snapping turtle is extremely large and heavy, you can use a shovel or other study implement that can be slid underneath the turtle and then dragged to get the turtle to safety. Take a look at the video below on how to safely move a snapping turtle.
Do Not Take a Wild Turtle Home
Saving a turtle from traffic is really the only responsible reason to move a turtle. Unfortunately, another popular but far less responsible reason is that you, or your kids, want to claim it as a pet. Look, I get it - turtles are super cute little guys but the truth is, this is heartbreakingly detrimental to the turtle.
Eastern Box Turtles are Homebodies
These fabulous little quadrupeds are sort of what you might call a homebody, particularly Eastern Box Turtles. Western Kentucky Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, Eastern Box Turtles stick close to home, rarely traveling more than a mile from where they were hatched as babies. A box turtle will actually stay in the same area its entire life and if they are moved - either by a well-meaning human trying to save them from some perceived danger or to be "re-homed" as a pet, this can cause much undue stress for the turtle.
Box turtles that were born in the wild and were later put into captivity tend to have a much shorter life span. Worse than this; some people take box turtles from their homes and then release them elsewhere into the wild. Box turtles will not simply settle down in a new location if moved. More often than not, they will wander aimlessly; hopelessly trying to find their old home until they die.
If you do take a box turtle home and then decide that you no longer want to keep it, it's imperative that you return the turtle to the exact location where it was found. Of course, the easiest - and most humane and responsible - thing to do would be to leave the turtle where you found it in the first place.