Tips for Helping a Turtle Cross the Road

Photo: Eastern Box Turtle by Danielle Brigida, USFWS

This time of year many wildlife, like turtles, are on the move. As the weather warms, turtles go in search for new territory, breeding opportunities and quests for food. Also, many females will travel to find ideal places to lay their eggs and will often cross the roads. Please keep a lookout for them while you’re driving this season.

Helping Turtles Cross the Street

  1. Always keep your own safety in mind — watch out for oncoming vehicles, signal properly when pulling over and recognize your surroundings first before working to help save an animal.
  2. Be very careful when moving the animal (it could be injured or it could bite you depending on what species). If possible, sometimes it is best to just stand guard as the animal crosses the road on its own.
Turtles will sometimes hide behind the wheels of parked cars, so check for them there also. Photo courtesy Jessica Mounts

3. If the animal needs to be moved, move it to the other side of the road in the same direction it was going. Using a car mat can be a good way to help the turtles across without actually picking them up. By using a car mat or putting something under the turtle, you can slide the turtle in the direction it was going.

Used with permission by Tom Hamilton Photography

4. Do not pick the turtle up by the tail. Some turtles may be frightened and will try to bite (like snapping turtles). Do not pick them up by the tail! Here’s a great video showing ways to safely help a snapping turtle in the road such as the car mat trick, or by holding them at the base of the shell and not the side.

Photo: Snapping Turtle by Caitlin Smith, USFWS

5. Do NOT take it with you — please only focus on helping it get safely to the other side.

6. Get involved with roadside restoration and transportation projects: We’re working to make our roads and roadsides work for transportation and the environment. Learn more about road ecology and wildlife for ways to get involved at a local level.

Photo: Red-eared slider by Ryan Moehring, USFWS

7. Learn more about wildlife laws in your state. Contact your State and Territorial Fish and Wildlife Office to verify what is legal for your state and ways you can get involved. You also are always welcome to contact your closest National Wildlife Refuge to learn more about what species to look out for.

8. If possible, snap a photo and report sightings Herp Mapper to help track the movements of these reptiles.

By Danielle Brigida, USFWS (see also Sharing the Road with Wildlife)

Updates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

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Updates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

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