How to help when a turtle is crossing the road


If you’re driving along and spot a turtle crossing the road, know that you might be there for a while. Yep, the stereotypes are true—turtles move incredibly slowly.

Unfortunately, perhaps due to driver impatience—or surprise—many turtles lose their lives each year trying to cross the road. After all, the journey often causes turtles to unwittingly end up smack dab in the middle of traffic. So how can you help?

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Natasha Nowick, founder of the Turtle Rescue League, told the Dodo that the best way to help is to “play crossing guard,” stopping cars temporarily while the turtle makes its way across the road. You can also simply pick the turtle up and carry her to the other side. If you’re worried that picking up the turtle will cause it to bite you or jump out of your grasp, Nowick says both of these outcomes are unlikely.

“They are so singularly focused,” says Nowick. “This time of year they are just walking across yards; they have no fear of humans because they have an impulse to nest on their mind. Honestly, if you move quickly enough, the turtle won’t even notice you picked them up until they are safely on the other side of the road.”

What else should you keep in mind?


According to PETA, you should first of all make sure to place the turtle in the direction it was heading in the first place.

Beyond that, it’s also important to note if the turtle has a crack in its shell, because that can indicate a puncture in the lung, which can cause the turtle to drown if it is placed in water. What should you do if you notice a crack? Julie Maguire of Turtle Rescue of Long Island told the Dodo that you can rehab an injured turtle yourself by putting it in a box a bit larger than the turtle itself, lined with paper towel or newspaper, until you can get professional help. She notes that many vets will treat injured wildlife for free.

Finally, if you encounter a snapping turtle, don’t be afraid. Despite their name, these turtles are among the gentlest of the species. “Snapping turtles are one of the most misunderstood turtles,” Nowick says. “Anyone who gets to work with them finds out that, of all the turtles, they are the biggest babies.” Just be careful not to pick up a snapping turtle by the tail, which can break their spine.

snapping turtle photo
Flickr | dmott9

As a caveat, however, PETA does note that snapping turtles do have the ability to bite, so you may be better off pushing them along with a blunt object—as long as it’s not too sharp. You don’t want to cause injury while you’re trying to help!

Good luck out there on those open roads!


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About the Author
Kate Streit
Kate Streit lives in Chicago. She enjoys stand-up comedy, mystery novels, memoirs, summer and pumpkin spice anything.

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