How to help if you come across a turtle in the road

Published: Sep. 27, 2018 at 5:41 PM EDT
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The Wildlife Center of Virginia says they've had an increase lately in injured turtles coming in to the center after bring hit by vehicles. They say this is because turtles are leaving their spring feeding areas and moving to their hibernation spots and often end up crossing the road in the process.

Amanda Nicholson, with the Wildlife Center, says if you come across a turtle in the road, it's great to help them across if you can safely do so, but make sure you put them back in the direction they were headed.

Many turtles spend their whole lives in less than one square mile of space, and know exactly where they're headed. Taking the turtle to a place you think is "better" could be life threatening.

"What you may think is a better area is probably outside of that turtle's home range. So it's very very important for turtles to stay within their very small home range, because they know where all of their best spots are," said Nicholson. "Do help the turtle cross in the direction that it's going. Even if you think it's better where it came from, it knows where it wants to go, so it's just going to turn right back around and cross without your help."

While picking up small turtles is fine, Nicholson recommends not picking up snapping turtles. She says you can encourage it across the road by standing behind it, or pick it up with a shovel. They ask you not to bring home turtles as pets.

Turtles that have been hit by cars and have fractured shells can often be saved by rehabilitation centers like the Wildlife Center of Virginia. If you encounter one, you can call them and they can help or direct you to another center that can. The best thing you can do is take note of exactly where you found the turtle, so the rehabilitation center can return it to its home.