• Keep an Eye Out for Turtles

    Painted Turtles basking on a log. / Jim Andrews

    Painted Turtles basking on a log. / Jim Andrews

    It’s springtime and Vermont’s turtles on are on the move.  The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is asking for the public’s help in keeping them safe. Female turtles are looking for places to deposit their eggs, sometimes choosing to lay along the shoulders of roads, which can end tragically.

    “Turtles often cross roads as they search for a nest site,” said Steve Parren, biologist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.  “They are a slow-moving animal in today’s fast-paced world, so they have a tough time making it safely across the road. Turtles grow slowly and live a long time, so losing a mature breeding female is a huge loss to the turtle population.”

    Turtle nesting activity peaks from late May through June. At this time of year, drivers are urged to keep an eye out for turtles in the road, especially when driving near ponds and wetlands.

    To decrease the number of turtles that are killed by vehicles, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has been collecting data to identify stretches of road that are hotspots for wildlife migrations. They are working closely with VTrans, and with Jim Andrews from the Vermont Reptile & Amphibian Atlas, among other partners.

    “When you spot a turtle in the road, you may be able to help it across. First be sure you’re in a safe spot to stop and get out of your car, as human safety comes first,” said Andrews. “If you’re going to move a turtle off the road, always move it in the direction it was traveling.  They know where they’re going.”

    According to Andrews, most turtles can simply be picked up and carried across the road.  However, if the turtle has no colorful lines, spots, or other markings, it is probably a snapping turtle, so people should not get too close to the animal to avoid being bitten. Snapping turtle’s necks are as long as their shell. Instead, people should push the turtle across the road with an object like a shovel or broom.

    Andrews is also asking paddlers, boaters, and anglers to report turtle sightings throughout the state to the Vermont Reptile & Amphibian Atlas. The reports help conservationists keep track of the status of these species in order to act if a species appears to be in decline.  You can easily add turtle, and all your observations of biodiversity in Vermont, to iNaturalist Vermont, a project of the Vermont Atlas of Life. All of the reptile and amphibian observations are shared with Andrews’ atlas too.

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    Comments (13)

    1. Susan J Hayden says:

      I walk along Burr Pond Rd near a beaver pond and the junction with Huff Pong Rd. The last two weeks I’ve seen 3 dead baby painted turtles on the road. They are tiny– just 1″ long. Today I saw a live baby trying to cross– but not really walking– more of a rocking/flopping kind of movement, but it was going forward and heading to the side where the pond is.

    2. Kristine Buck says:

      Hello I live across from Bristol Pond on Monkton Rd. Our house is next to the marsh. Last year we had beavers move in and create their own pond next to our house. As a result we’ve had 6 geese families take up residence and are now experiencing significantly increased turtle activity. We see many in the yard everyday and unfortunately at least 2 dead turtles a day for the past few days in the stretch of road across from my house. It’s on a curve and there is no shoulder. Also people tend to drive 50-60mph even though the speed limit is 40mph. I thought about ordering turtle crossing signs.

      • That is too bad, but all too common in some places. If you are willing, it helps to document these so that in the future there is data to show in areas where VTRANS might do work to mitigate crossings. YOu can add them to the Vermont Atlas of Life on iNaturalist (there’s even a free smartphone app to use if you want). Check it out at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/vermont-atlas-of-life. And if you don’t know the species, there are lots of naturalists and biologists on there like me to help identify things.

        • kristinebuck79 says:

          Thank you! It appears that I need to upload photos? It won’t let me make an observation without posting a photo I don’t believe. Thanks!

    3. Kassiah says:

      So I marked two areas where eggs were latex on Bessette Road in fairfax
      Ones by my home the other by the St. Albans reservoir the reservoir eggs were laid June 11th the other June 17th
      When should they hatch????

    4. Kevin Szych says:

      I have a painted turtle nest about 3 feet from my house and saw the turtle lay the eggs. I expected the eggs to hatch around 72 days later which would have been on August 18th. Still no turtles have dug there way out. I know these turtles can over winter in the nest but concerned the location might not be ideal for that. Should I dig up the nest and put the baby turtles in my pond to help them survive?

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