Helping Turtles Safely Cross The Road
NEW ULM, Minn. - It's that time of year to slow down and look out for turtles. Roadway mortality is believed to be a major factor in turtle population declines throughout the country.
As long as there have been cars, roads have been an issue for turtles. Late May and June are especially dangerous months for the slow-moving reptiles.
"We have a lot of females that are seeking places to lay their eggs to nest. So they're moving from wetlands, lakes, ponds and streams to the upland's to lay their eggs. But at other times of the year we have them moving between those water habitats, some dry up and also in the fall we see hatchlings leaving the nest and returning back to the water," Minnesota DNR Nongame Wildlife Specialist Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer said.
Helping turtles safely across roads, particularly females with eggs, is vital to the preservation of regional populations.
"Certainly you don't want to do anything that endangers themselves or others. If they can safely pull off to the side of the road and do that, we ask them to help them to the side of the road to the direction that they're headed because they're going there for a reason otherwise you put them back they're going to move back. Handle them gently, if you're going to handle them never hold them by one leg or a tail, if you have something like a broom or shovel or something you can kind of urge them across the way," Gelvin-Innvaer added.
The best thing to do is be proactive through habitat conservation.
"Turtles live a long time and if they've always been using a wetland on one side of the road and nesting on the other side they may still be inclined to cross and that's where we need to have things where they not only fence the road to keep them off but they still need places to nest so if you're not creating that nesting habitat or conserving it on one side then you have to provide under road passage through specially designed culverts," Gelvin-Innvaer said.
There are only two nongame wildlife specialists in our region so they cannot respond to every turtle sighting, but motorists are still encouraged to report crossings, especially stretches with a significant amount.
Helpful links: http://www.mndnr.gov/reptiles_amphibians/helping-turtles-roads.html and to document where turtles are seen, http://www.herpmapper.org/register
--KEYC News 12