Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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NH: Turtle shells no match for tires — Give turtles a brake

CONCORD, N.H. — Spring is a welcome time in New Hampshire, and
one of the signs of the season is turtles migrating to nesting
habitat. We can help them survive by slowing down and keeping an
eye out for turtles crossing the roads in coming weeks, says New
Hampshire Fish and Game Department Wildlife Biologist Mike
Marchand. Turtle nesting season in New Hampshire typically lasts
from late May into early July, reaching maximum intensity in early
to mid-June.

“Turtle nesting season provides us with a unique opportunity to
see turtles moving on land, but it is an extremely vulnerable time
for the turtles,” says Marchand. “Today, the biggest threat to
turtle populations in New Hampshire is being struck by automobiles
on roadways. While male turtles may choose to travel overland to
reach a different wetland habitat during spring and fall, mature
female turtles MUST leave the relative safety of ponds and wetlands
to contribute to the development of future generations.”

To find an appropriate nesting habitat, female turtles may
travel several hundred yards or more, seeking a sandy or other
well-drained area that is open to sunlight. Female turtles dig a
nest chamber, deposit eggs, cover the eggs with soil, and depart,
leaving the turtle embryos and future young turtles to fend for
themselves. Young turtles must cope with predators, primarily
raccoons, which may dig up and destroy a large number of eggs. When
turtles are small, everything eats them –raccoons, great blue
herons, even a bullfrog on occasion. As turtles approach adulthood,
they are less vulnerable to predators. Predators are generally not
catastrophic for local populations, says Marchand, but the impact
of development and the associated increase in amount and speed of
traffic on our roads is taking a toll.

Turtles have coped with various threats by being able to live a
very long time, with some local species of turtles possibly
exceeding 70 years! But low survival of young isn’t the only reason
why turtles must live a long time — female turtles of some species
may not be capable of reproducing until they are 15 years of age or
older.

Here are a few things you can do to help New Hampshire turtles
survive:

1) Slow down and watch for turtles in roadways!

2) Help turtles cross roads safely. If you see a turtle crossing
a road, and it is safe for you to do so, help it cross in the
direction it was traveling. Never create a dangerous situation for
other motorists or yourself. Snapping turtles should be handled
with care or allowed to cross on their own.

3) Don’t take the turtle home or move it far from where you
found it. A turtle taken to your home is a turtle lost from the
local population. (Also, all New Hampshire native turtles are
protected by state law during nesting season).

4) If a turtle is injured, visit
http://www.wildnh.com/Wildlife/wildlife_rehabbers.htm or call Fish
and Game’s Wildlife Division at (603) 271-2461 for a list of
wildlife rehabilitators in your area. For more on what to do if you
find an injured turtle, visit
http://www.wildnh.com/Wildlife/Nongame/injured_turtle.htm.

5) Report turtle sightings to N.H. Fish and Game’s Reptile and
Amphibian Reporting Program
(http://www.wildnh.com/Wildlife/Nongame/reptiles_amphibians.htm).

6) Work with land trusts and town officials to help conserve
important natural areas in your community.

7) Another tip: Mulch piles can be attractive places for turtles
to nest when located near wetland areas. Spreading mulch into
gardens soon after delivery will reduce turtles from nesting in a
mulch pile that is likely to be disturbed later in the season. If
mulch will be in place for several weeks or more, covering with
plastic will help reduce attractiveness for nesting turtles.

By taking these steps, we can all help to ensure that New
Hampshire’s turtles stay abundant and healthy. So slow down and
give turtles a brake this spring and summer!

Learn more about migrating turtles in New Hampshire and how you
can help them survive by tuning in to wildlife biologist Mike
Marchand’s “Radio Diner” podcast about turtles on the Fish and Game
website at http://www.wildnh.com/Wildlife/Nongame/turtles.htm. You
can also see pictures of and learn how to identify New Hampshire’s
seven native species of turtles at this page.

Find out more about the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s
Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program, supported by federal and
state grants and individual donations, at
http://www.wildnh.com/nongame.

 

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