If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
MADISON – Wisconsin motorists and others can join a new effort to help reverse the decline in turtle populations by helping identify the deadliest road crossings for turtles so that crossing safety measures can be taken to help save turtles.
“Road mortality is a major factor in the decline of many of our turtle species,” says Andrew Badje, a conservation biologist with the Department of Natural Resources. “Slowing down when driving by rivers and wetlands and reporting where you see dead or live turtles along the road are ways citizens can help protect and conserve these animals in the future.”
In Wisconsin, every year from mid-May to early July female turtles leave their aquatic habitats for dry upland nesting grounds to deposit their eggs. Many of these seasonal expeditions require treacherous passages over roads more than once. As some wetlands dry up over the course of the summer, turtles also cross roads in search of nearby deeper-bodied wetlands to live.
“Too often, the turtles never make it to the other side,” Badje says. While some motorists accidentally hit turtles, research has shown that some motorists will actually swerve to hit and kill turtles.
Road mortality has a significant effect on turtle species such as Blanding’s, painted, snapping, and wood turtles, Badje says. Other reasons for the decline of turtle populations within Wisconsin include habitat loss and fragmentation, illegal pet trade, egg predation, disease, and slow reproductive rates.
“Road mortality is one thing we can reduce if we’re cautious and alert for turtles crossing roads and highways, avoid them, and take the extra step of letting DNR know where that turtle crossing was,” he says.
Motorists and other citizens can record road crossing observations online through the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program website. They also can access turtle road crossing report forms online, print them, fill them out, and mail them in to the address on the form. wiatri.net/inventory/WIturtles.
Submitted data will be shared and distributed statewide with agencies and organizations willing to make roadways safer for Wisconsin’s 11 turtle species. Projects include implementing wildlife friendly underpasses and using a stencil to mark roadways where people need to use caution and slow down so they don’t hit turtles.
Other steps motorists can take to save turtles include:
• Slow down when driving by rivers and wetlands in the spring, summer, and fall.
• Stop and help turtles cross roadways, only if it’s safe to do so.
• Carefully move turtles crossing roads to the side of the road in the direction they are moving.
• If assisting a snapping turtle, use a stick or an object for the turtle to bite down on. Then handle its tail and gently guide the turtle across the roadway, in the direction it was heading.
“Turtles are an important part of the food chain in lakes, rivers and wetlands and people really enjoy seeing them in the wild,” Badje says. “Citizens are the key to protecting and conserving Wisconsin’s turtles, and we hope the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Project can help more people get involved and help reverse the decline.”