Springtime means turtles traversing roads

Springtime brings a new kind of road hazard, the slow, hard-shelled kind.

As temperatures rise turtles tend to be more on the move and motorists should be on the look out for the reptiles crossing roadways.

Rock Wilferth said he has seen more turtles on the roads already and will sometimes go out of his way to help the slow moving reptile get to a safer location.

"It depends what road I'm on," Wilferth said. "If I'll be on a highway I would try to avoid hitting it. If I was out in the country on a gravel road I would stop and take it over to the side of the road to try and keep someone from hitting it and killing it."

Bruce Henry, the regional natural history biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said turtles can damage vehicles and that drivers can have a negative impact on the populations of local turtles this time of year.

"It's for the best interest of your vehicle and the turtle that we don't hit them," Henry said. "What really gets me is this animal that could've been on the landscape for 75 years gets whipped out by somebody who is just not paying attention. That is bad but the worst is that some people do it on purpose and that is just unconscionable."

After making calls to a handful of tire repair shops in Southeast Missouri, an employee at one garage did remember a customer years back that hit a snapping turtle which popped his tires. While the possibility is low, it still is so it might be rare but it is possible.

Henry said there are two reason why turtles get moving this time of year: they're hungry after months of inactivity and it's mating season.

"Warmer weather allows their metabolism to increase and they're looking for food as well as potential mates," Henry said. Typically when we encounter aquatic turtles crossing the road they're usually attempting to go lay their eggs somewhere more than likely."

The department of conservation is also urging people to refrain from taking a turtle home as a pet because a restricted environment is not natural for the wild animals that are used to roaming in open environments.

"A captive lifestyle for a turtle, a wild animal is not a good way to live their life," Henry said. "Our wild turtles in Missouri are best kept wild."

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