Why did the turtle cross the road?

Red-eared slider turtle

Beep, Beep! I wished that worked, but no it won’t make those turtles cross the road any faster. Why did the turtle cross the road? No, that isn’t the beginning of a joke. Turtles cross the road like they have an important place to go, well they do. Turtles are constantly moving back and forth from different bodies of water, but most turtles you encounter, especially during the months of May and June are female turtles. These two months are their nesting season, when female turtles are trying to find the safest spot to lay their eggs.

Female turtles dig a nest in the ground with the rear legs, lay their eggs and then usually leave. Some turtles have been known to guard their nests from possible snake intrusions. Different species of turtles lay different amount of eggs, some lay one egg at a time while others may lay dozens. Unlike chicken’s eggs turtles do not need to sit on their eggs to keep them warm and they don’t care for their babies once they are hatched.

What should you do if you see a turtle crossing the road?

Safely stop your vehicle on the side of the road. Under no circumstances should you put yourself or others in danger (be aware of heavy traffic and cars possibly going around you and/or the turtle).

Take note of which direction the turtle is traveling in and move the turtle to that side of the road facing the same way they were heading.  Turtles are very aware of their surroundings/territory, so even if they aren’t traveling towards water it is best to place them on the side of the road rather than relocating them.

Small turtles can easily be carried across the road, but you may encounter large snapping turtles!

Here are some examples of turtles you may find during your travels:

Box turtle – Medium sized turtle with a smooth high domed carapace or shell. They are characterized by their hinged shell, which can shut completely to keep out predators. Eastern box turtles are considered a threatened species.

Eastern box turtle

Snapping turtle – Brown to black color with a large head, hooked jaw, ridged shell, long serrated tail, long neck and webbed feet with long claws. The alligator snapping turtle primarily of southern United States are an endangered species.

Baby snapping turtle

Snapping turtles are very dangerous and should only be move if absolutely necessary. They are strong, fast, have very sharp claws and may try to bite so be very careful! They can be moved using an object such as a flat shovel, a long stick or if you have a pair of gloves throw those on, but snapping turtles can bite through gloves so it is best to keep your distance. A flat shovel or large stick can be used to carefully scoot the turtle along. Sticks can also be used to distract the turtle, if the turtle bites the stick you can drag or carry them elsewhere without getting bitten. Snapping turtles can be pick up by their rear shell or by both rear legs making sure their head is facing away from you. Avoid carrying snapping turtles by their tail it could damage their vertebrae. If you move a snapping turtle be very careful!!

Snapping turtle

Painted turtle– Can be distinguished by their bright colors, its skin is olive to black with red, orange and yellow stripes extremities. Its shell is smooth, oval with a flat bottom.

Painted turtle

Painted turtle underside

Red-eared slider turtle

There are over 270 different types of turtles, so you most likely will encounter many more then these few I have mentioned. Hopefully once you have moved the turtle safely across the road they won’t need to cross it again any time soon!

Why did the turtle cross the ocean? Now that is another story.

Green sea turtle

Readers if you have some interesting turtle stories please share them with us!

6 Responses to “Why did the turtle cross the road?”
  1. vintagejenta says:

    I have a memory about this: When I was younger, my grandparents had a lake cabin out on this little spit of land that had a really narrow road RIGHT along the lake to get there. It was a dirt/gravel road and there was a sandy bank a little higher than the road on the opposite side from the lake side. We used to go for walks along that road a lot and invariably we would see turtles around and evidence of their nests. I’ve even seen newly-hatched little baby turtles crossing the road to the water (and, sadly, squished ones and eggs that got eaten by animals), though I missed the actual hatching. It was always fun to see the remains of hatched nests and spy for turtles sunning themselves on logs in the lake and nearby ponds.

    I don’t seem to see as many turtles around any more. Too many cars, maybe!

  2. Rebecca says:

    In case there are people out there that don’t know about snapping turtles, they are more dangerous than this article is letting on. They are strong and powerful and fast and can easily bite your fingers right off, even with gloves on. My advice is never handle one unless you are trained. Otherwise, keep your distance and give them something to bite on like a large stick. They will clamp down and most likely won’t let go giving you time to drag them to a safer location. NEVER grab their tailes because they will turn on you! BEWARE of snappers!

    • Irma Elaine says:

      Thank you Rebecca for your comments! Yes you are correct snapping turtles are dangerous and I will be sure to update this post to better reflect that and address your comments and concerns. Have you had any experiences good or bad with turtles? Thank you again, Irma Elaine!

  3. Great article, Ashley. I’m glad to learn about how to orient the turtle once you move it. I made the mistake the other day of taking a turtle out of the driveway here and down to the pond, rather than just setting him off the road in the direction he was heading. Now I know! Also a week ago we had a baby snapping turtle out by our shed. So prehistoric looking!

  4. Darlene Russell says:

    The 5th pic is actually a red eared slider, note the red on the side of the head. I used to have one as a pet.

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  1. […] to remind myself the following year when to prepare the hummingbirds food or to watch out for turtles crossing the road or even when those wonderful wildflowers are in […]

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