Please Don’t Squash the Turtles!

contributed by Catherine Greenleaf

The ladies are back! Female Painted Turtles and Snapping Turtles, that is, and they are crossing the roads all over the Upper Valley to lay their eggs in a sunny and sandy spot and then crossing back over the roads to return to the pond or lake where they live. Egg laying usually begins close to Memorial Day weekend, however, turtles have already been spotted crossing the roads. They can continue their egg laying until July 15 or longer.
A number of these grand dames are being carefully escorted across the road by concerned citizens. If you see a Snapping Turtle in the road and are concerned, please call me and I will try to help. Or call New Hampshire Fish & Game dispatch at (603) 271-3361 or (603) 223-6832. Or you can call Vermont Fish and Game at (802) 223-8690.
Typically, what I do is gently coax the turtle into a plastic storage container with a spade or shovel and then carry her across the road in the direction she was headed. Other methods: I place the turtle on a plastic tarp or large piece of flat cardboard and drag her across to the other side of the road. I never drag a Snapper backward by the tail as it can rupture her spine.

Snapper eggs typically start hatching around the second or third week of August, and you will see tiny, silver dollar-size turtles scurrying across the road and headed toward the water. If you see a wayward turtle hatchling, don’t hesitate to put it along the edge of the water where it was headed.

If you do see a turtle that has been hit by a car, please call me or NH Fish and Game (phone number listed above). Even when the shell is cracked, turtles can and do survive car impacts. But time is of the essence.

If you need a Turtle Crossing sign, please call me.

Snapping Turtles are referred to as the “janitors” of our lakes and ponds. They eat the detritus at the bottom of water bodies and are very efficient cleaners. Without them, our pond and lake waters would look pretty murky and muddy. They are a valuable asset to any body of water.

Thanks, everyone!

Catherine Greenleaf
Catherine GreenleafDirector, St. Francis Wild Bird Center
Catherine saves injured wild birds and turtles in Lyme, New Hampshire.