Nesting season in Wisconsin sees turtles on the move

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RIB MOUNTAIN, Wis. (WSAW) - The Wisconsin DNR is asking for the public’s help in keeping both turtles and drivers safe this summer.

June is prime nesting season for turtles, and with that comes a lot of turtles crossing roads. Painted, wood and snapping turtles are among the species that tend to have run-ins with traffic on roadways, many being hit by inattentive drivers.

Andrew Badje is a conservation biologist with the Wisconsin DNR. He says that turtles are on the move during this time because they are attracted to the surface on the side of the roadways to lay their eggs, rather than the wetland areas.

“The females are looking to go into the sandier uplands or along the sides of the road in the gravel to lay their eggs,” said Badje.

Badje says there are ways for drivers to help the turtles cross safely. If it’s a smaller turtle such, such as a painted turtle, drivers can safely pull over, and when traffic allows, pick the turtle up by its shell and move it to the other side of the street.

However, for larger turtles, such as snappers which may pose more of a threat to humans, officials say you can either pick it up by the back of its shell (away from the head) and safely drag it across the road, or find a stick for the turtle to bite down on and guide it across.

According to Badje, it’s important to make sure you help the turtle cross in the direction it was originally headed.

“If you don’t, that turtle is eventually going to want to cross that stretch of road again, so you’re putting it in extra jeopardy,” added Badje.

While the number of turtle crossings that take place in Wisconsin is difficult to track, the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program is a way for people to report crossings.

Badje says this helps officials locate popular locations where turtles may be crossing and focus their efforts on those areas.

“We can get a better gauge of where all of our species are in the state, high density areas as well as really dangerous road crossings that we can put some conservation efforts towards,” said Badje.

According to the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program website, some of those conservation efforts include the installation of turtle crossing signs and wildlife friendly underpasses.
If you want to report a turtle crossing, visit the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program website here.