It's fall and you might be thinking "Hey, it's getting too cold for turtle crossings," if so, you're wrong!
Right about now in the colder areas of the world, turtles are going to be looking for places to hibernate, and when a turtle finds a place he/she wants to stay, there is no stopping him/her from getting there. This means (as you have probably guessed) that turtles will cross busy roads and highways. We all love turtles and we all want to help them, but how can you safely get a turtle to the other side? This information can also be helpful when spring arrives and big mommy turtles are heading towards their nesting area.
In this article I will explain a few ways to help and for a few different turtles' sizes.
1. The Perfect Home: Once a turtle has picked a spot they are going to get there, so if you see a turtle trying to cross the road make sure (if you decide to help them) that you take them in the direction they are already going. If you turn them around and go the other way they will simply wait until you are gone and try to cross again. This is probably one of the most important tips to turtle crossing because if you do not follow this step the rest is pointless.
2. Small Turtles: If the turtle is very small (such as a spotted turtle, blanding's box, or slider) the best thing to do is pick them up gently on the left and right side of their carapace (top part of the shell). Make sure you stay away from their legs as they may try to scratch you in the confusion. Keep them low to the ground and try not to drop them. Don't dwell on handling the turtle, as stress can harm the reptile almost as much as sickness. Place him/her down on the ground where they were headed and move away from them (you can still watch). Once the turtle feels comfortable it will continue towards his/her destination.
3. Large Turtles: The turtle I am most concerned about in the large category is the snapping turtle. There are many subspecies of the snapping turtle and only one can not stretch its strong jaws to most of it's shell. If you are trying to help a snapping turtle across the road the best thing to do is to pick it up by the tail, raising only its back legs off the ground leaving its front legs scraping the road. Walk backwards and pull it like a rake across the road. This will prevent it from biting you and you can safely bring it to the other side. Do not pet the top of a snapping turtle's shell as it can reach back further then halfway over it's carapace.
If you follow these few tips we can safely help turtles to cross the road without them being hit. This way more offspring will be born, giving us a more insightful look at how reptiles live in the wild.
Author's Note:Sources: The Reptile Zoo, Peterberough, Ontario Canada Reptile magazine (turtle special issue, September 2005)