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Should I Help a Turtle Cross the Road?

You’re driving along on a beautiful day when you see a small shape in the middle of the road up ahead of you. As you draw closer, you realize it’s a turtle. Should you stop to help it continue across, or should you leave it be? At Bottletree Animal Hospital, we sometimes get questions about how to deal with wildlife, including turtles. Using information provided by trusted government wildlife resources, we can offer some insight on what to do when faced with the question of whether to help a turtle cross the road. Read on for helpful tips!

help a turtle cross the road

Steps to Safely Help a Turtle Cross the Road

Helping a turtle cross the road is a thoughtful gesture, but it’s important to do it correctly to ensure both your safety and the turtle’s safety.

Here are some tips from official wildlife resources:

Safety First

Before attempting to help a turtle, ensure that you can safely pull over and turn on your hazard lights, then carefully exit your vehicle. Be mindful of oncoming traffic and prioritize your safety and that of other road users​​.

Maintain Direction of Travel for the Turtle

Always move turtles in the same direction they were traveling when encountered. It might be tempting to take them to a nearby waterbody or different location, but it’s crucial to keep them on their intended path​​.

Try Using a Car Mat

If a turtle is hesitant or slow to cross, placing a car mat in front of it and gently encouraging the turtle to climb aboard can help speed up its journey​​.

Handling a Snapping Turtle

If you encounter a snapping turtle, be cautious. These turtles have long necks and can bite if you hold them by the sides of the shell. To move them safely, use a car mat or carefully hold them at the back of the shell, not the sides​​. For large snapping turtles, avoid the front half of the turtle’s body. While wearing gloves (if you have them), place one hand at the base of the turtle’s tail and the other hand halfway under the turtle’s shell to stabilize and secure the turtle​​.

Remember, while helping turtles is admirable, it’s essential to do it in a way that ensures the safety of both the turtles and yourself!

What Not to Do When Moving a Turtle

When moving a turtle across the road, there are several important “don’ts” to keep in mind:

Don’t Disregard Traffic Safety

Never attempt to move a turtle if it puts you or others in danger due to traffic. Always ensure you can safely pull over and help without risking an accident.

Don’t Change the Turtle’s Direction

Do not alter the direction in which the turtle was originally heading. Turtles have specific destinations in mind, and changing their direction can disorient them or prolong their journey.

Don’t Pick the Turtle Up by Its Tail or Limbs

Avoid picking up a turtle by its tail or limbs. This can cause injury to the turtle. For most turtles, the safest way to pick them up is by holding the shell near the rear, but away from the back legs to avoid being scratched.

Don’t Handle Snapping Turtles Without Caution

If the turtle is a snapping turtle, exercise extreme caution. Do not attempt to hold them near the middle or front of the shell as they can reach around and bite. Use a tool like a car mat or board to move them, or if necessary, hold them at the very back of the shell.

Don’t Keep or Transport the Turtle Unnecessarily

Move the turtle directly across the road in the direction it was heading. Do not take it with you or move it to a different area, as this can be stressful and harmful to the turtle.

Don’t Ignore Personal Protection

If possible, wear gloves when handling a turtle to protect yourself from scratches and potential health risks.

Why Do Turtles Cross Roads?

Turtles cross roads for all kinds of reasons, such as searching for food, mates, or nesting sites. Understanding their motivations is crucial in appreciating why our intervention might be necessary. Furthermore, roads often intersect with the natural habitats of turtles, leaving them little choice but to cross. Because of this, vehicles and human infrastructure pose a significant risk to turtles. It’s important to drive responsibly and keep an eye out for wildlife on the roads as much as possible. Turtles and other wildlife are essential to a healthy and diverse ecosystem.

Recognizing When You Need Help

If a turtle appears injured or in a particularly risky situation on the road, it’s best to contact wildlife professionals instead of trying to help the turtle on your own. Remember, at Bottletree Animal Hospital, we’re always here to offer advice and support, and we can connect you with wildlife specialists if you encounter a turtle or other animal in need. Call us at (662) 234-4336 for any questions or concerns!

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Welcome to Bottletree Animal Hospital, your family-friendly veterinarian in Oxford. We are a team of animal lovers who are passionate about veterinary excellence. We love working closely with you and your pet to help us learn more about your furry friend, their lifestyle, and their needs.