Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?
To get to the other side of course!
You often see snapping turtles cross the road during their nesting season May to mid-July. Female snapping turtles are looking for just the right place to find a mate and make their nest. Turtles are attracted to the gravel shoulders of roads to lay their eggs. It’s easy to dig and the sun keeps the nest warm.
Unfortunately, snapping turtles face dangers as they cross the road.
Habitat destruction combined with high mortality rates from crossing roads are significant causes of their population decline. A recent study estimates some turtle species in Ontario may decline by 50 per cent over the next three generations due to road mortality.
Even though female snapping turtles lay 20 to 40 eggs at a time, only one per cent of eggs survive to adulthood. While natural predators such as skunks and raccoons feed on eggs, road mortality is impacting turtle numbers. In Ontario, Common Snapping turtles are listed as a species at risk. In fact, seven of eight turtle species in the province are species at risk.
You can help turtles as they cross the road.
Be on the lookout for turtles while driving. They often look like oil slicks or bumps. Keep the following in mind and always consider your own safety first.
- If you see a turtle, slow down. Give it space when passing. You can also turn on your hazard lights to alert other motorists.
- If it’s safe, help it across in the direction it’s travelling. Learn the proper techniques and get safety tips from the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
- If a female is actively nesting (digging a hole with her hind feet), let her be.
- If you find an injured turtle, gently move it off the road into a shaded spot. Do not pour water on the animal. Call the Ontario Turtle Conservation Center or your local wildlife rehabilitation facility for professional advice.
Ontario is the turtle diversity hotspot of Canada. We are home to eight species of freshwater turtles. In the Credit River Watershed there are four native turtle species: Common Snapping, Midland Painted, Blanding’s and Northern Map. You can also find the invasive Red-eared Slider.
Help keep turtles safe. Keep an eye out over the next few weeks while driving. Turtles are most likely to be crossing roads near wetlands, streams and ponds.