Feltham is a volunteer turtle researcher at Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute and she said June is a time for drivers to keep a sharp eye out for the less-than-speedy reptiles.
“Most of the Painted Turtles, Wood Turtles, Snapping Turtles, and Blanding’s Turtles
seen at this time of year are breeding females trying to find a place to lay their eggs,” she said.
The endangered Blanding’s Turtle is a medium-sized turtle with a high, domed shell with yellow spots and a yellow neck, she said. The threatened Wood Turtle has a bumpy shell with orange-red neck and legs.
“This June, a known female Blanding’s Turtle named Jeanette (identified by a unique code on her shell) was hit by a car while crossing the road to her nesting site,” Feltham said. “Her nest is usually protected by volunteers as part of a local nest protection program to help this endangered species.”
Feltham said Jeanette had begun breeding a few years ago when she matured at approximately 20 years of age -- and was named after dedicated local volunteer Jeanette Turner.
“If she hadn’t been hit on the road she would have continued laying nests for another 40 to 60 years,” said Feltham. “This makes each breeding female very important to the recovery of the species.”
All turtles are vulnerable to being hit if they cross a road to get to a nesting site or try to nest on the side of the highway.
“Blanding’s Turtle can be especially vulnerable because they nest in the evening and night and are harder for drivers to see,” Feltham said. “If it is safe to do so pull completely off the road, put your hazard lights on and help turtles you see to cross the road.”
Turtle Road Tips
Lend a helping hand:
-- Always put your safety and the safety of others first.
-- Never pull a turtle by the tail. It’s part of their spine and can injure them.
-- Move the turtle in the same direction that it was travelling, not where it came from.
-- Snapping Turtles require more caution to handle and need to be picked up at the back of their shell to avoid a potential bite (watch “How to Help a Snapping Turtle Cross the Road” on YouTube). All other turtles can be moved with a secure grip on this top and bottom shell.
-- Wash and sanitize your hands after handling turtles, they can be carriers of salmonella.
Watch for signs along the highway that indicate where to be aware of Blanding’s Turtles in Annapolis, Lunenburg, and Queens counties, Feltham said.
If you would like to find out more about how to help at-risk turtles contact the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute (1-866-727-3447).