Go Slow for Turtles
June 4, 2013
Motorists on park and local roads should be aware of female turtles that are leaving wetlands and crossing roads in search of high nesting ground this time of year.
Most of Minnesota’s nine species of freshwater turtles lay their eggs in late May through June. Turtle populations have been decreasing in North America. Habitat destruction and fragmentation are the major causes for their decline. Each year thousands of turtles are killed on roadways, especially during the nesting season. Turtles may not reproduce until 14-16 years of age and rely on nesting for many years to compensate for high predation on their eggs and young. A mature female killed on a roadway is a significant loss for its population.
Drivers are asked to slow down and be observant while driving on roads near wetlands. By being alert and cautious, it is possible to safely avoid killing these reptiles that are just trying to complete their life cycle. While certain turtle species nest along riverbanks, others may travel far overland and often will cross roads. There are now more roads and more traffic volume on these roads than ever before.
A female turtle digs a nesting cavity, deposits her eggs, and then leaves the eggs to incubate in the warmth of the sun. The eggs will hatch in two to three months, if they manage to escape predation by skunks and raccoons. The hatchling turtles are then on their own to find their way to a wetland and fend for themselves.
Turtles evolved 200 million years ago and their shell has remained unchanged for millions of years. They are among the longest-living vertebrates. Let’s do our share to help preserve these ancient creatures.
The public also is reminded that it is illegal to take or collect snapping turtles in May and June in Minnesota. The harvest ban is intended to protect nesting female snapping turtles.
For more information about the Park District’s efforts to protect turtles, contact Wildlife Technician Madeleine Linck at 763.694.7851.