I've seen first hand that this is the time of year where turtles are crossing roads across the Northland to nest.  Unfortunately, many are hit and killed by cars, which is believed to be a major factor in turtle population declines throughout the United States.

For that reason, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking motorists to watch for turtles and, whenever, possible, allow them to cross the road safely.

Helping turtles safely cross roads can help preserve Minnesota’s turtles.  The DNR offers these pointers:

  • Mostly importantly, don't put yourself or others in danger. Simply pulling off the road and turning on hazard lights may alert other drivers to slow down. Be aware of surroundings and traffic.
  • Allow unassisted road crossings. When turtles can safely cross roads unaided due to a lack of oncoming traffic, allow them to do so. Observe from a distance and avoid rapid movements, as doing otherwise will often cause turtles to change direction, stop, or seek shelter within their shells.
  • If necessary to pick them up, all turtles except snappers and softshells (also known as leatherbacks) should be grasped gently along the shell edge near the mid-point of the body. If it is a snapping turtle or softshell turtle, try to use a car mat and pull it across the road. Many turtles empty their bladder when lifted off the ground, so be careful not to drop them if they should suddenly expel liquid. Avoid excessive handling that can disrupt turtle behavior.
  • Maintain direction of travel. Always move turtles in the same direction they were traveling when encountered. Turtles should always be moved across roadways in as direct a line as possible.
  • Help document turtle crossing and mortality areas by participating in the Minnesota Turtle Crossing Tally and Count Project. Click here for more information.

If you come across a turtle who was injured while trying to cross the road, they can taken to your nearest permitted wildlife rehabilitator.