Turtles and Snakes
Give Turtles "a Brake"
Each May and June, motorists should be on the alert for turtles crossing the road. Turtles are long-lived and well adapted to their natural environment, as they can retreat to the safety of their shell when threatened by predators. But the turtle's shell provides no protection against a major cause of mortality, being struck by vehicles while crossing roadways.
- Our native turtles are on the move in May and June seeking sandy areas or loose soil to lay their eggs.
- In New York, thousands of turtles are killed each year when they are struck by vehicles as they migrate to their nesting areas.
- Most species of land turtles that are native to New York are declining.
- It may take more than 10 years for a turtle to reach breeding age, and since they lay just one small clutch of eggs each year, the loss of a breeding female can have a significant effect on the local population.
What You Can Do to Help
- If you see a turtle on the road, please try to avoid hitting it with your car. Do not swerve suddenly or leave your lane of travel, but take care to avoid hitting turtles while driving to "give turtles a brake".
- Be on the lookout for turtles and slow down, especially on roads near rivers and marshy areas.
- If you see a turtle in the road or shoulder and you can safely stop your vehicle and approach the turtle, please consider moving it to the shoulder on the side of the road in the direction it is facing.
- Picking the turtle up by its tail may frighten or injure it. Most turtles, other than snapping turtles, can be picked up by the sides of its shell.
- Use extreme caution when approaching snapping turtles. You could:
- stand watch as she finishes crossing,
- pick her up at the rear of the shell near the tail using both hands, or
- slide a car mat under the turtle to drag her safely across the road. See a video of how to help a snapping turtle cross the road (link leaves DEC website).
- Do not take the turtle home. All turtles native to New York are protected by law and cannot be collected without a permit.