Why did the turtle cross the road?
The answer may surprise you. They’re actually “sunbathing,” which is a risky move, said Andrew Holland, the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s national media relations director.
“Turtles are cold-blooded and so they will come up and lay on the pavement or they will find some nice sand on the side of the road and they will just hang out there. Unfortunately, this is where they are prone to get struck by a car,” said Holland.
Holland said hundreds of turtles across the country are being injured or even killed by cars in the spring and summer, which is why the conservation group has launched an awareness campaign aimed to help give turtles a break.
“The goal is to keep turtles safe. Turtles are endangered in many provinces across the country,” he said.
Losing just one turtle can upset the entire ecosystem of a wetland, says Pam Novak, the director of the Atlantic Wildlife Institute animal rescue in Cookville, N.B.
“They are kind of like the cleanup crew of our water systems where they will eat the dead debris, the dead bugs and will churn up the bottom and create new growth,” she said.
She said saving even one is vital to the health of the wetlands because turtles can take up to 25 years before reproducing, and only about two eggs out of every 100 become adult turtles.
Holland said the Nature Conservancy of Canada is asking motorists to slow down when they see a turtle on the road, and that people are encouraged to pull over if they can do so safely and give the slow movers a helping hand.
“If you see a wood turtle or a painted turtle you can just slowly pick it up and carry it like a hamburger across the road in the direction it was going,” he said.
Larger snapping turtles that cannot hide their heads inside of their shells tend to bite, he said. So, they should be lifted at the back of the shell and coaxed across the road wheelbarrow-style until they are out of harm’s way.