Helping reptile friends cross the road
Did you know that May 23 is World Turtle Day? It's all about raising awareness for turtles and encouraging people to help them survive. Participating can be as simple as helping a turtle cross the road. Most turtles begin to move as the weather warms. This may be for mating, nesting or many other reasons. Of course, turtles move much slower than cars (and don't understand human traffic laws), which makes crossing the road incredibly dangerous. To celebrate and protect all of the turtles out there, here are some tips for safely helping them reach their destination!
If you see a turtle on the road, remember to use the correct signals when pulling over. Keep your flashers on to warn oncoming vehicles and always check your surroundings.
Moving the Turtle
If the turtle is moving at a decent pace, you may be able to stand nearby and watch it cross. If the turtle is stagnant (or if you are uncomfortable touching the turtle), you may use a blunt object to help push it. Make sure the object isn't sharp, and be gentle! This will be your best option for moving a snapping turtle, they may bite if you use your hands.
Picking up the Turtle
Most turtles will hide in their shells if they are frightened, which makes it easier for you to pick them up. Place both of your hands behind the front legs and towards the back legs. The turtle may try to kick, so don't hold it up high – you don't want to drop it! Also, it's very important to never pick up a turtle by the tail, as this can severely injure them.
Another option for moving the turtles is using a car mat. This works best for larger turtles that you may not be able to lift. You can allow the turtle to walk onto the mat, or help gently push it onto the mat. Be sure to carry the mat low to the ground in case the turtle falls off.
Going the Same Direction
Be sure to move the turtle in the same direction it was trying to go. If you place it back where it was coming from, it will most likely turn around and return to the road.
Do Not Take it with You
Turtles and other wildlife are meant to stay in the wild. No matter how cute turtles can be, resist the temptation to bring it home. When taken out of their home areas, they will most likely try to go back. They are not pets so they need to be in their natural environment.
An injured turtle may look dead, so if you are unsure as to whether or not the turtle is injured, there are a few tricks you can try. Try gently touching the back of their foot, or touch the corner of its eye to test for a reaction. The turtle may try and kick, or move its head or eyes. If a turtle has a crack in its shell, it might drown if it returns to the water. If the turtle you find has a damaged shell, or seems seriously injured, contact a professional. Many veterinarians, animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centers will treat them for free.