It’s that time of year again, when our shelled neighbors are on the move. Usually they are females seeking a nesting site. They may be males scouting around for that special someone. They may be early hatchlings leaving “home” for the first time. Whether they’re on their way to a specific destination only a turtle can know, or just looking for love in all the wrong places, many of them will never complete their journey if a stretch of it puts them in the path of oncoming vehicles.
Nobody should ever put themselves or other motorists in danger for wildlife in the road; it’s sad to see an injured animal, or one about to be, but sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. Sometimes, however, there IS, and if you find yourself lucky enough to be able to intervene:
DO pull safely off to the shoulder, well out of the way of other traffic.
DO put on your hazard lights.
DO move the turtle in the direction it was already heading.
DO handle the animal with care, by the edges of its shell, and wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you can.
DO NOT ever pick a turtle up by its tail. This can cause the turtle serious injury. If it’s a snapping turtle, it could also cause you serious injury: snapping turtles can stretch their necks long enough to bite clear to the rear.
DO NOT take the turtle far away from where you found it. If the animal is injured, contact a local wildlife rescue. Resources for our area can be found in this directory: http://wildliferehabinfo.org/Contact_N-Z.htm#VIRGINIA
For more information on how to handle traffic and turtles, check out the Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortiose Society: http://www.matts-turtles.org/helping-turtles-cross-roads.html
As our Boxy Babe would say: share the road, folks, and be safe out there!