Many of us want to help preserve the local wildlife around us but just don’t know where to start. Projects like birdhouses and bee boxes are very impactful but can be time consuming and costly to begin. If you are someone who feels like you just don’t have the momentum to start such ventures right now, there is a much easier way that you can still help wildlife around your home this summer!
Much like us, wildlife becomes more active as we enter the deep summer months. Bears are awake and feasting on this year’s bounty of berries and greens, birds have returned to their homes from long migratory paths, and reptiles and amphibians are becoming more active and starting to venture out in search of mates. For turtles, spring and summer is a perilous time spent facing the greatest obstacle of all: roads. During this time of year, the impulse to reproduce is so strong that turtles will cross highways and roadways to reach their mating destinations. Unfortunately this leads to thousands of turtle injuries and deaths across the globe. With the right facts, YOU can help turtles in your own backyard travel safely with just a few simple steps.
The first thing you can do is to be very aware of wildlife when driving. Turtles can sometimes be mistaken as rocks on the shoulders of roadsides and will be passed up until it’s too late. Go slowly and be alert of your surroundings when driving in turtle country. If you do see a turtle in the road or trying to cross, it is important to come to a safe, complete stop somewhere nearby. Always turn your hazard lights on to let other drivers know that you are stopped and/or near the roadside. This is important in order to ensure your own safety. Once the coast is clear of traffic, you may approach the turtle. Always grab the turtle firmly and with two hands to make sure not to drop them. Moving the turtle in the same direction it was heading will decrease the likelihood that it will attempt to cross again. Snapping turtles can be grabbed in the middle of their shells, in front of the back legs where their necks cannot reach. If you aren’t comfortable doing this, coaxing them to the other side of the road with a stick or shovel can suffice. Remember that they are more scared of you than you are of them, so make the interaction quick and safe for the both of you.
While you will perhaps become fond of the turtle you are helping and sympathize for its travels, always remember that it is never okay to take a wild turtle in as a pet. They belong outside and it is important to leave them in the general area where they were found. Many turtles only have small home ranges and are very particular about the routes they travel. Moving a turtle far from its home can be just as dangerous as crossing the road itself.
Be a wildlife-cautious driver this summer and keep your eyes open for turtles in need of help. It only takes a minute of your time and can make a valuable impact on such a prehistoric species.
What else can you do in your local neighborhoods to make human-wildlife interactions go more smoothly?