Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

May 22, 2014

As you drive down Southeast Missouri roads – it’s possible that you’ll see a box turtle making his or her way across the road. Sadly, many don’t make it and if that trend continues, it could cause a decrease in the turtle population in the future.

Sara Turner is with the Missouri Department of Conversation and she says that the turtles are crossing the road to find a home territory or to find a mate. If you think you are seeing more turtles than in previous years, Turner says that the strange winter weather could be a factor, or perhaps the decrease in green space has impacted the typical migration patterns for the box turtles.

If you see a turtle crossing the road, Turners says you should avoid it safely if possible without having an accident. If you want to help the turtle and you can do it safely she says, "Look at the direction in which that turtle is traveling and safely move that turtle to the side of the road in which it's heading." She went on to say that if you put it back on the opposite side of the side, it is just going to turn around and try to cross again.

With turtles being hit on the roads and the loss of green space, there are concerns about an increase in their mortality rate. It is very hard to track their numbers because there are so many box turtles. Right now the turtle population appears to be stable.

Turner said there are no concerns about the turtles becoming extinct but there could be a decline in their numbers in the future because it takes a box turtle many years to replace itself with females only laying 3-8 eggs per year. Many times those eggs are eaten by predators, such as raccoons.

Turner noted that the worst thing a motorist can do is to "save" the turtle and take it home to be a pet. It is very difficult to provide a box turtle with its dietary requirements. So, putting it in your basement to catch bugs could ultimately lead to the untimely death of the turtle.