Q. There’s a turtle in the middle of the road. Should I stop and help it across or should I just leave it alone?
A. I’m sure many of us have come across a turtle trying to cross a road and wondered if we should stop and help it. A common time for turtles to be on the move is between April and October. This is when turtles are looking for new nesting or hibernation places, water sources or mates. We’ve got five tips for you when it comes to turtles:
1. You need to determine if it is safe. A busy road is not only dangerous for turtles but for you too.
2. Can you determine which species of turtle it is? If it’s a small turtle, you should be able to pick it up by firmly holding onto either side of its shell somewhere between its front and back legs. The turtle may struggle a bit, so keep it close to the ground to prevent it from getting injured in case it wiggles free.
If it’s a large turtle with a long tail it is likely a snapping turtle. Snapping turtles have long necks and you’ll want to be very careful not to get bitten.
There are several techniques for moving snapping turtles, and each situation dictates the best course of action to take. One thing to remember is to never pick the turtle up by its tail, as this can seriously injure it. You can use a shovel, board or something else that isn’t sharp to gently coax the turtle across the road. Sometimes the turtle will bite on to this object. If this happens, gently pull the turtle across the road. Their rough reptilian skin will help protect them from the road. You can also use a shovel to coax the turtle into a large bin which can then be carefully carried across the road. Carefully coax the turtle out of the bin ensuring it’s facing the direction it was originally heading.
3. Always move the turtle in the direction it is going – even if it’s away from water.
4. Never take turtles from the wild. If the turtle is injured you should contact a local licensed wildlife rehabilitation centre.
5. As with all wildlife, wear gloves or wash your hands after handling the turtle.