In some areas, turtle habitats are entirely boxed in by roads, meaning that these creatures are at an even higher risk of a vehicle collision.
Turtles, with their built-in armor, outlived the dinosaurs and have roamed the earth for more than 200 million years. But they may not survive humankind.
According to a 2018 study from the University of California Davis, approximately 61% of the world’s 356 turtle species are threatened or already extinct, and the decline could have ecological consequences. The authors explain that turtles are now among the most threatened groups of vertebrate animals on earth, more so than birds, mammals, fish, or amphibians.
“The ecological importance of turtles, especially freshwater turtles, is underappreciated, and they are generally understudied by ecologists,” says Josh Ennen, a research scientist at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute. “The alarming rate of turtle disappearance could profoundly affect how ecosystems function as well as the structure of biological communities around the globe.”
If You See a Turtle on the Road
Given that many turtles are relatively small and slow and cars are relatively big and fast, the languorous creatures need all the help they can get when crossing a road. The folks at PETA recommend the following.
If you spot a turtle on the road, pull over safely to a safe location and help them cross quickly.
Escort Them in the Right Direction
Always escort turtles in the direction they’re heading—otherwise, they’ll turn back into traffic, determined to reach their destination.
Pick Up Small Turtles
Smaller turtles can be picked up by gently holding their shell with both hands between their front and back legs and carried across the road. (Please do not pick up a turtle by its tail.)
Take Extra Care with Large and Snapping Turtles
Large turtles and snapping turtles should be handled as little as possible. They can be gently encouraged into a cat or dog carrier or onto a solid, flat surface (such as a piece of sturdy cardboard) that can be safely moved a short distance with the turtle on top of it.
Never assume that a turtle who has been hit by a car is dead. As PETA explains, turtles have a very metabolism and can suffer for weeks before dying. Even if the shell is cracked or shattered, as gory as the situation may seem, the turtle may still need your help. Test for a reaction by pinching a back toe or gently touching the corner of an eyelid. Injured turtles should be contained and transported to a veterinary clinic or wildlife rehabilitator right away.