Busy Roads Pose Threat to Turtle Population

CBS 58—It’s a dangerous time of year for turtles, as they cross busy roadways searching for nesting sites.

This month a large snapping turtle was brought to the Wisconsin Humane Society after being hit by a car.

“She was brought to the wildlife hospital here and she had massive injuries,” said Crystal Sharlow-Schaefer, the wild life team leader at the humane society.

Wildlife experts couldn't save the snapping turtle but did find she was carrying 68 eggs

“We were able to remove them and that's what we have here, two incubators filled with all of her eggs,” Sharlow-Schaefer said.

Unfortunately what happened to that snapping turtle isn't uncommon. When turtles lay their eggs, they leave the water to find a nesting spot. Due to the urban environment, they often have to cross busy roads.

“Most turtle populations in Wisconsin actually are in decline,” said Sharlow-Schaefer. “Certainly some of it has to do with this time of year, when nesting mothers are trying to get to nest sites.”

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources set up the  Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program to combat the problem. The website has details about species of turtles and a video that shows you how to safely help a turtle cross the road.

You should pick the turtle up by it’s shell. If it's a snapping turtle, avoid the front half of the shell or grab a stick for it to bite and guide it across the road. Experts say you must move the turtle the direction is was headed.

“Turtles are trying to get to a certain spot,” said Andrew Badje, a conservation biologist with the Wisconsin DNR. “So if you put them on the wrong side, they're just gonna try and cross again.”

The DNR site also has a place to report turtle sightings, crossings and nests.

“Part of the reason why we started up the program is to get a better idea of where these spots are so we can have a larger database,” Badje said.

He adds that info will be used to help mark areas with heavy turtle traffic. Along County Road LO in Mukwanago, there are turtle crossing signs painted on the road.

As for the snapping turtle eggs at the humane society, they will be returned to the water after they hatch.

To learn more about ways to help the turtle conservation effort click here.

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