Location – location – location, everyone knows when trying to find a place to call home, location is key. For turtles, a good egg-laying location often involves crossing to the other side of the road. We’re coming up on turtle nesting season. Nesting season is from late May to early July, with a peak in early June. Females nest in fields or residential yards, areas where the nest will get sunlight throughout the day to incubate the eggs.
Turtles live for a long time and are driven by instinct. In many cases the turtle was headed to a nesting area that was there long before there was ever a road there.
So be on the lookout for turtles crossing the road. If you see a turtle in the road, here’s what MassWildlife says you should do.
Turtles in the Road
Be more aware of turtles on the roads, especially from mid-May to early July.
First and foremost, do not risk getting hurt or causing harm to others by unsafely pulling off the road or trying to dodge traffic. However, if the opportunity to safely move a turtle occurs, move it in the direction it was heading and off the edge of the road. It is trying to get to habitats and resources it needs. Do not take turtles home or move them to a “better location.”
Turtles that are found on roads, in backyards, and in other unexpected areas are moving about the landscape to reach resources they need, such as nesting areas. Don’t take them to a “better place!” Turtles have strong homing instincts, so if you move one to “a better” habitat, it is very likely to try to return home and in the process cross many roads. Where you find them is in the area that they are familiar with; they know it intimately because they have grown up in the surrounding area. Moving them also increases the risk of spreading disease to other wild turtles.
Turtles with minor injuries (e.g., a hurt foot or damage to the outer rim of the shell) should be left where you found them. They are very resilient and will likely heal fine on their own. When injuries are major (e.g., large open wounds), you should contact a local wildlife rehabilitator, veterinarian, or wildlife clinic.
Always call ahead first to make sure they treat turtles! Not all veterinarians or wildlife rehabilitators accept turtles. Below is a list of wildlife clinics and veterinarians in Massachusetts that treat injured turtles. This list is not complete and persons that would like to be added to the list should contact Mike Jones, MassWildlife State Herpetologist at (508) 389-7863.
To find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator near you, please see MassWildlife’s Find a Wildlife Rehabilitator web page.
Please keep in mind that wildlife rehabilitators are not authorized to rehabilitate Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern species protected under MESA. If you’re not sure whether you have found a listed species, please contact MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.
For more information on turtles read Guide to Turtles of Massachusetts – Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife)