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Home » Valentine's Day » ‘Give turtles a break’: It’s turtle crossing season in New York

‘Give turtles a break’: It’s turtle crossing season in New York

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently put out their annual reminder that spring is turtle crossing season on New York’s roads.

Thousands of turtles are killed each year as they cross busy roads on the journey to lay their eggs. The DEC wants New Yorkers to keep an eye out on the roads during May and June and slow down to help prevent these incidents and “give turtles a break.”

How to help land turtles

If a motorist sees a turtle on the road, they are encouraged to slow down to avoid hitting the creature. If the vehicle can pull over safely, motorists should consider moving the turtle to the shoulder of the road in the direction the turtle was headed.

Do NOT pick up turtles by their tails as this could cause injury to the animal. DO pick up turtles by the sides of their shells, except snapping turtles.

Snapping turtles have long necks that can reach and put you on the receiving end of a strong bite. To help a snapping turtle, DO pick the turtle up from the rear end of the shell near the tail using both hands, or slide a car mat under the turtle to drag it to safety.

The DEC reminded motorists to NOT take turtles home. All native turtles are protected species. All 11 land turtles native to New York are in decline. Turtles lay their eggs once a year in small batches, meaning the loss of even one mature female can negatively impact the local population.

How to help sea turtles

To help sea turtles, New Yorkers are encouraged to:

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rethink: these are simple steps to help protect all marine species
  • Don’t litter: unwanted trash makes its way just about everywhere, including into our waterbodies
  • Don’t release balloons or lanterns: releasing balloons into the environment is potentially fatal for sea turtles, as turtles commonly mistake balloons and plastic bags for prey items like jellyfish
  • Volunteer for beach and park clean-ups
  • Stay informed and share your knowledge with others.

A word from the DEC Commissioner

“A turtle’s shell provides good protection from natural predators, but it cannot protect a turtle from being hit by a vehicle while crossing a road,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos in a release. “Vehicle strikes are a major cause of turtle mortality and New York’s native turtles are more active this time of year as they seek sandy areas or loose soil to lay their eggs, sometimes even near the side of a road.”

Additionally, the DEC recognizes May 23 as World Turtle Day. Non-profit American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) created World Turtle Day to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises whose population is slowly dwindling on a global scale.