Helping turtles across the road

This time of year female Michigan turtles are leaving their aquatic homes to lay eggs on land. If you can safely stop and help them across the road please help them continue in the direction they’re heading.

Nathan Murphy

With the warmer temperatures of early summer new wildlife activities get noticed. The deer are having fawns, and the summer frogs start to call in the evenings. You might also notice turtles seemingly out of place on our roads and trails. Those are females leaving their homes in ponds, lakes, marshes, etc., to go up on dry land to lay eggs. 

Like most reptiles, turtles lay eggs on dry land. Even the different species of sea turtles in our oceans, some of which stay in the open ocean all year, come ashore to lay eggs. And scientists have shown that female turtles show a strong site fidelity to the areas where they originally hatched and return year after year to lay eggs.

As we’ve put roads alongside and through wetlands and other aquatic habitats, we’ve separated some turtles from their nesting areas. Female turtles trying to return to their nesting grounds may find themselves crossing roads and risking their lives. 

I know a number of people (myself included) tend to stop when it’s safe to do so and help a turtle across a road. If you do this, please do it correctly. The turtle is either moving to or away from her nesting grounds and will continue in that direction. Some people unwittingly put her at more risk by putting her on the side of the road from where she was coming from, which erases her progress and forces her to continue attempting to cross a dangerous road. If you stop to help, be sure to move the turtle to the road in the direction she was heading. She’ll then continue on to her nesting site or back to her aquatic home. It’s one small way we can help our wildlife.


Nathan Murphy