Summer roads still a threat for turtles

DERRY NEWS/File PhotoMotorists are still seeing turtles crossing roadways this summer. State officials offer some tips for how to handle a turtle rescue or what to do if an injured turtle is discovered in the road.

Drivers in the area are still seeing a turtle or two crossing the roadway en route to a new wet spot or nesting ground.

So why did the turtle cross the road?

According to Josh Megyesy, a wildlife biologist for New Hampshire Fish and Game, turtles have come out of hibernation and may be still looking for a love connection.

Seven different species are native to New Hampshire, including Eastern painted turtles, snapping turtles, common musk turtles, Blanding's turtles, spotted turtles, wood turtles, and Eastern box turtles.

According to the New Hampshire Fish and Report, "Life in the Slow Lane," four of the state's seven native turtles are considered species in greatest need of conservation in the New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan. Two of these species, Blanding’s turtle and the spotted turtle, are also protected under the state's Endangered Wildlife Conservation Act.

According the report, the greatest threats to turtles in the northeastern United States are loss of habitat to development and adult turtles being killed on roadways. Because turtle populations depend on extremely high adult survival rates, the death of adult turtles on roadways can be devastating.

Megyesy said mature adults, between the ages of 5-15 years old, move around the landscape in search for food and a suitable habitat. Female turtles are often moving across roads and woods in search for open sandy habitats that are suitable for laying eggs, which usually happens during the summer.

Although some turtles are exploring, Megyesy said many of them have a destination in mind. He said females are often found making upland moves while males cross anytime their food source is altered, vernal pools dry up or wetlands change.

According to Megyesy, if you see a turtle in the middle of the road, help them across in the direction in which they were heading if it is safe to do so. This is important, because if the turtles are turned around, they will likely head back the way they were going once you leave.

"Roads were not created with turtles in mind," Megyesy said, who mentioned roads bisect habitats like streams or wetlands.

Megyesy said it is OK to pick up a turtle by its shell to send it on its way. However, if it is a snapping turtle, it's best to take a different approach.

Keep hands away from its head because snapping turtles can bite, Megyesy said. However, this type of turtle can be picked up by its back legs and carried to its intended destination.

If someone finds a turtle who has been hit crossing the road, Megyesy said to call Fish and Game immediately. A licensed rehabilitator may be able to help the injured turtle. According to Megyesy, rehabilitators have techniques for fusing the turtle's shell back together, ways to take X-rays to assess internal damage and administer antibiotics and treatments if needed.

"Helping (turtles) cross the road, not taking (them) as pets, and reporting turtles you see to fish and game are all really helpful to us and our conservation efforts," Megyesy said.

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