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October 9, 2009

If You See a Turtle in the Road

Help them find their way and remain wild

The Humane Society of the United States

Have you ever been driving down the road when that tire fragment in the distance begins to move? As you get closer, you realize that the tire fragment is actually a turtle, slowly attempting to cross the highway.


Turtles often make this perilous journey to get to a good, sunny location with loose soil in which to lay eggs, and to return back to familiar territory—be it a woodland, pond or desert burrow.

It is in just this situation that so many turtles lose their status as wild animals and are consigned to an unnatural, and unnaturally short, life in a back yard. By all means, help that turtle cross the road in the direction she (or he) was heading, if you can do so safely. But then leave her in the wild where she belongs.

The collection of turtles by passersby seriously contributes to the ongoing population declines in many species. Turtles and tortoises are particularly vulnerable to collecting, since they are slow-moving and generally non-aggressive.

Likewise, their populations are vulnerable as well. As is typical of long-lived animals, turtles are slow to sexually mature. They lay relatively few eggs, and mortality of eggs and hatchlings is frequently very high. In addition, their habitat is increasingly fractured by roads and carved up into housing developments and shopping centers, causing local extinctions. Thus every turtle who survives to adulthood is critical to his population.

Turtles are said to make good pets, yet they have specific dietary and habitat requirements and can pass diseases, such as salmonellosis, to humans. What's more, their attempts to escape from backyards and return to familiar territory puts them at tremendous risk of being crushed in the road.

The HSUS believes that wild turtles belong in the wild. Help make this a humane summer by helping them get to the other side of the road—and then leaving them there.

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