Despite a few remaining cold bouts, spring has finally sprung! And with spring comes a new generation of countless species of wildlife, including our good friends the turtles. Around this time of year, we can expect to see turtles of all sorts crossing local roadways looking for their breeding grounds, as well as newly hatched offspring preparing to make it on their own. Here are just a few things to remember when you see our shelled friends out and about:
They don’t need our care!: These animals have always thrived in the wild and that’s not about to change. They do not need our care or interference to survive, and even seemingly defenseless hatchlings are usually well equipped to make it on their own. More often than not, our “assistance” is a hindrance to these animals and can even be detrimental to their survival. If you see an animal that you truly believe to be in trouble, consider calling a reptile rescue (or the VLM!) and let trained professionals assist the animal.
Help that turtle cross the road…then leave it on its way: When you see a turtle crossing a busy road, there is nothing wrong with giving them a helping hand across. Move the turtle to the other side of the road in the direction it was heading. The turtle is likely crossing the street to get to a known pond or breeding ground, and once safely across, they can take care of themselves. A turtle on the road does not need to be rescued or taken home. If you spot a turtle that has been hit by a car, notify a vet or rescue that can deal with the animal in a professional manner.
Leave the eggs where they lie: It’s not uncommon to come across turtle eggs, especially for gardeners. Many people feel these eggs need care, and so they remove them or try to take care of the eggs themselves, which can be detrimental to their survival. Reptile eggs require very specific conditions for hatching, and mother turtles will seek out nest sites that meet these conditions. Therefore, eggs are much more likely to survive in these locations with protection from predators and the elements. If you accidentally unearth a nest, try to gently rebury the eggs under loose soil. If the eggs must be moved, contact a local professional for help or advice.
The turtle can live happily in your yard: Many people are surprised to find turtles living in their yards. We think of turtles as living “somewhere in the wild”, and it’s hard to imagine our yard as a suitable habitat. But remember, many wild animals such as birds, squirrels, rodents, raccoons, and others live in our yards, and turtles fit right in with them, likely having lived in the area long before our houses were built. “Wild habitats” can also contain higher populations of predators, so sometimes our yard is safer for the turtle. A wildlife officer can be called to remove the turtle if absolutely necessary, otherwise that turtle may live a long and happy life on your property. Just keep an eye on pets and exercise caution when mowing the lawn.
Wild turtles should always be left wild. These animals make very poor pets as they require a special ranged diet, lots of space, artificial (or actual) sunlight and they can be messy animals and live a very long time (box turtles may live to be well over 80 years old!). Wild turtles can also pose the risk of carrying diseases, such as salmonella, so cleanliness must be practiced. The best way to help any wild turtle is to let it be. These animals have survived for about 220 million years without our help, and they certainly don’t need our care now. So remember, if you see a wild turtle, take your pictures and move on; he’s perfectly happy right where he is.