Turtle in the road

If you find a turtle in a busy road, what is the best action to take so that it might live long and prosper?

One site I googled said that turtles stay close to where they were born all their lives, and that if you displace them, they could spend the rest of their lives trying to get back home. Is that true? I always have attempted to move them just off the road in the same direction that they were heading. Sometimes where they were heading isn’t a good place. So I move it someplace else as close as possible. I’ve often wondered if in its turtle brain it isn’t thinking, “Damn, now where am I now?”

So what should you do when you meet a turtle in a road?
A) Nothing, it’s slow enough that 80% of the drivers are going to miss it anyway, and 99.9% are going to try to avoid killing it. (There’s always that .1% psycho bunch)

B) Move it out of the way to the nearest relatively safe spot, which might even mean moving it several hundred feet.

C) Realize that you know what’s best for the creature and relocate it near a creek in the nearest park.

D) Something else. ____________________________

If it’s a busy road, I’m not about to endanger my life for a turtle.

Around here, we’ve got a turtle preservation organization. I’m ostensibly on the board, but really just talk over beers about technical solutions to tracking populations and identifying individuals. We have very few native turtles (the Western Pond Turtle being the primary one), so we actually try to remove non-native invasive species (don’t worry, we don’t kill them). There are tons of Red Eared Sliders (the ones you used to get at the dime store as a kid) that people have had as pets. They dump these non-native species into our local waterways and they tend to outcompete the Western Pond Turtle. There is probably a local organization that could give you a recommendation as to what to do.

Years ago I and Mrs. J. were driving in the country when we encountered a medium largish turtle in the road.

Because I am softhearted, I pulled over, got out of the car and went to rescue the turtle. I picked him up and carried him most of the way to the shoulder before he began struggling and slipped out of my grasp. When I went to pick him up to carry him the last couple of feet to safety, a turtle head suddenly emerged from the shell at the end of a surprisingly long neck and a pair of nasty-looking jaws made a vicious snap at my hand.

Moral of the story: do not attempt to rescue a snapping turtle, presuming you can recognize one beforehand.

Jackmannii, a similar thing happened to me, and I totally concur. Those things are going to have rescue themselves.

Thanks, you really tortoise something.

Ducks head back in shell and lumbers off.

Years ago, when I lived in Levittown, PA, I saw a snapper making his way across State Road away from the Delaware River. Given the amount of truck traffic on that highway, he was moments away from becoming turtle pate. I stopped in the road and grabbed his shell at the 4 and 8 o’ clock positions to say away from that long neck, picked him up (he was a heavy sumbitch) and tossed him gently back into the grass on the east side of the highway.

Traffic which had stopped gave approving honks and thumbs up for the 60 second turtle rescue. :smiley:

I’m with the “move to a nearby spot” idea. However, my mother always told me to wash my hands after handling a turtle because of salmonella risk. Wikipedia confirms it:

Just last Friday I was headed to work on a fairly busy, one-lane road, when I saw something on the ground in front of the car ahead of me. I thought it was a dead duck (there was a pond nearby), but it turned out to be a live turtle slowly making its way across the road. As I was thinking “I should stop and move it the rest of the way,” the car behind me ran it over. I saw it through my rear view mirror. I wanted to cry. :frowning:

I’m giving the woman who hit it the benefit of the doubt; even if she was heartless enough to gun for a turtle, this one was large enough that she surely would have refrained out of a desire to avoid damage to her car. She probably didn’t see it in time to avoid it. That road is busy enough in the morning that it probably would have been too great a risk for me to get out to help it across the road.

If your question includes desert tortoises, #1 might be the best answer. If you pick them up, they void their bladders as a defense mechanism. Depending on the conditions, it can lead to dehydration and death. (this according to a Ranger at Joshua Tree)

Turtle in the road, turtle in the road, hmm-hmm-hmm-hmm, turtle in the road.

Don’t tell me I’m the only one who thought of Turkey in the Straw.

I’m all for letting nature take care of itself. I once saw a turtle (from a lake) laying eggs in broad daylight, with 2 crows hovering around it waiting for it to leave. The second the turtle left, the two crows dug up the eggs and ate them. The people who worked at the location said the previous year they had to put a traffic cone over the turtle eggs to prevent the crows from eating them.

My justification for not intervening was thus - somewhere on that same lake, there was a turtle who was smart enough to lay his eggs at midnight, when all of the crows were asleep. Why should I unfairly dilute his gene pool with some turtle who cannot figure out that noon is not the best time to lay eggs?

If I can pull over safely and I have the time I’ll pull over and move it to the side of the road. Otherwise I’ll say a prayer to whatever gods watch over turtles and hope it makes it. I won’t endanger myself for a turtle.

Box turtles have been found to be rigidly tied to their home territory. If “rescuing” a box turtle involves moving it several miles, it will probably not settle down in its new place, but will wander restlessly. Aquatic turtles are more flexible; they usually adapt to any suitable body of water.

Depending on your location, a turtle found on the road at this time of year may be a female looking for a place to lay her eggs. It is egg-laying time in the deep south right now, in Florida and all along the Gulf coast. Females with eggs are looking for somewhat sandy soil that gets lots of sun.

I think the best practice is to take the turtle to the side of the road in the direction it was already traveling, and hope for the best.

That would be quite a turtle!

When I’m driving in from work I go through lots of country roads. When I see a turtle, I’ll pull off and move them off the road in the direction the were travelling. I leave the big snappers alone, usually. Once after a storm I was walking through my pastures. The dogs were going ape about something, so I went over to find a huge snapper that had apparently been washed down the creek and upended on his back. I flipped him over and called the dogs off.


When I worked one summer in Florida there was a story in the news about a woman who stopped on a road so her daughter could move a turtle off the road, her daughter was hit by another motorist and killed, very sad. I myself have helped a turtle cross the street but that was on a desolate neighborhood street.

As should be expected, Crotalus nails it. If human safety permits, move turtles and tortoises across the road in their direction of travel, and no farther. Certainly not to “that nice Park” or perhaps “that pretty stream” down the road.

Terrestrials like tortoises and semi-terrestrials like box turtles tend to be homebodies that should not be displaced from their home territories. And even aquatics may not benefit from your choice of a destination territory-- habitat differences that are too subtle for you to notice may make a huge difference to the turtle itself.

And then there is the possibility for translocation of diseases and parasites from one population to another. This is a serious threat, especially for the genus *Gopherus * (Desert Tortoise, Texas Tortoise, Gopher Tortoise, and others) which are subject to URTD (upper respiratory tract disease). URTD has many strains (like the flu) which are variable in morbidity and mortality, from highly lethal to merely nasty.

Being creatures of habit with self-restricted home ranges, natural spread of this disease syndrome can be limited. Tortoises in a given area become exposed over time to the local variant (call it URTD-A) and the survivors become resistant. But then along comes a do-good tortoise rescuer, bringing in a tortoise carrying another strain (say URTD-B). This displaced tortoise wanders hither and yon, searching for his home territory and spreading his disease variant throughout a population that is non-resistant to this different strain. And of course, becoming himself infected with URTD-A along the way.

Locally we see devastating effects on tortoise populations at popular destination locations, like state and national parks. Tortoises “rescued” from roadsides or construction locations all across the map are relocated by well meaning people, who think that the local park will make a swell new home for the individual animal. So the parks tend to accumulate tortoises carrying URTD-A through URTD-Z, each of which can separately infect every other tortoise on site.

Similar issues probably exist for even aquatic turtles, which can host a variety of parasites like flukes. Since many flukes require “intermediate hosts” in addition to “primary hosts” (I won’t elaborate, fearing a surplus of only tangentially relevant information) it is possible for one lake or stream to be fluke free, and another nearby to be heavily infested. Translocation of turtles can change these local conditions.

The bottom line is that relocation of wildlife, turtles and tortoises included, is more often deleterious than not, both to the individual and the population.

I have moved lots of turtles. But the snappers can really bite hard. They can wrap their necks back a surprising distance,so be very careful.

My 5 year old daughter loves animals. She was playing in the yard one day and casually came into the house proud of what she had. It was a snapping turtle about 8" across. I have no idea how it got in our yard because the nearest pond is at least 1/4 mile away. We kept it for a day and she was devastated when I made her release it in the pond.

Little known fact: If a snapping turtle bites you, it won’t let go until it thunders (that is what they told me as a kid). I guess you are screwed if it is a dry spell.

I’m told that some drivers find amusement in running over turtles in the road and watching the carcass bounce behind the car. Sometimes, the turtle achieves vengeance at the moment of death. Turtle bones can puncture a tire.