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Be on the look-out for turtles

Aaron Crook of Ridgefield photographed this large snapping turtle in a Ridgefield intersection recently.

Aaron Crook of Ridgefield photographed this large snapping turtle in a Ridgefield intersection recently.

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is reminding residents to be on the lookout for turtles crossing roads.

Especially big snapping turtles.

Now is the nesting season when many egg-bearing aquatic turtles often cross roads in search of terrestrial nesting sites.

“Connecticut’s landscape is highly fragmented by busy roads, and many turtles are forced to travel greater distances to find suitable nesting habitat,” said Rick Jacobson, Director of the DEEP Wildlife Division.

“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. Be sure to assist a turtle in the road only when it is safe to do so and do not attempt to stop traffic.”

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.

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.

“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,” said Mr. Jacobson.

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 motto: “If it is safe, help turtles cross the road.” If you are interested in learning about Connecticut’s turtles, please visit the DEEP’s turtle webpage at www.ct.gov/deep/yearofturtle.

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