Why did the turtle cross the road? To find a mate and nest, of course!
Did you know?:
- Georgia is home to 24 species of land-dwelling turtles and 5 sea turtles.
- The upper part of the shell is called the carapace and the bottom is called the plastron.
- Not all turtles can pull their heads into their shells.
- Turtles have roamed the earth for an estimated 220 million years.
- The shell is part of the turtle’s spine and ribcage.
During your travels this spring and summer, you’re bound to encounter at least one turtle trying to make it across the road. While there’s merit in wanting to help the turtle cross the road, there’s a few things you need to consider before, during, and after you assist.
Before you pull your car off the road to make your daring rescue, make sure it’s safe! The last thing you want is to rescue a turtle but cause an accident (and a hole in your wallet!). Never stop in the middle of the road. Always pull off to the side and turn on your hazard lights. Make sure that you aren’t pulled over around a blind curve or an equally dangerous roadway scenario.
They are STILL wild animals.
While you know you’re doing the turtle a favor by not being hit by a mechanical predator, the turtle doesn’t know you don’t plan to eat them. Turtles are incredibly strong. They have sharp claws that can easily cut skin and they can pack a wallop of a bite.
Move them in the direction they were heading.
First, when you pick up the turtle make sure you have a firm grip on either side of the shell. Move them low to the ground to prevent them from being injured in the chance you drop them. Always move the turtle to the other side of the road in the direction it was going – they are on a mission!
Do not drive the turtle to a “better location”.
Most turtles have small home ranges and will ultimately try to wander back to where you moved them from. This will only increase the chances of them being hit by a car. You may think that the area you found the turtle isn’t safe or doesn’t have what the turtle needs but the turtle knows better! Some turtles are aquatic and some are terrestrial. You may accidently move them to a habitat that isn’t suitable for them. Moving turtles (or any other animal for that matter) also increases the chances of moving disease or non-native species to other places.
Wash your hands.
Like any other animal, turtles can carry disease or bacteria that isn’t friendly to humans like salmonella. Always make sure you wash your hands after handling.
Do not take the turtle home
You may think you’ve just found the perfect pet but it’s best to keep wildlife wild. It is also never a good idea to release pet turtles into the wild, even if they are a native species. Turtles that are kept in captivity can develop diseases that can harm wild turtles if released. Domesticated turtles have a difficult time surviving in the wild since they are used to having food provided to them and didn’t need to avoid predators.
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Enjoyed your article on turtels. Was hopeing it included a contact for injured turtels.
Georgia DNR, Wildlife Resources Division
Hi Russell! Here’s a list of wildlife rehabilitators in Georgia. Just scroll down to where “Reptiles” are listed: http://georgiawildlife.com/sites/default/files/le/pdf/Special-Permits/Wildlife_Rehabilitator_List.pdf