Go Slow for Turtles

May 19, 2022

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 due to habitat destruction and fragmentation. 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. “It’s devastating,” said Angela Grill, a wildlife biologist for Three Rivers Park District. “A mature female killed on a roadway is a significant loss to that population, potentially losing 30 years of reproduction. A huge loss that can potentially be avoided.”

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 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 increased traffic volume on 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. Fun fact about turtles is that they evolved 200 million years ago and their shell has remained unchanged for millions of years. They are among the longest-living vertebrates.

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.