How to Help Turtles

Below are some ways we can be good friends to our shelled neighbors.

1) Watch for turtles crossing the road

Painted turtle in the road

Eastern painted turtle found crossing the road.

If you find a turtle that is in the road or on the side about to cross, helping them get across the street in the direction they are headed can save their life.

First, your personal safety is paramount. When it is safe, pick up the turtle and get them to safety. On the side where they were traveling to, place them in a safe location on the side of the road.

Turtles should only be moved out of harm's way. Please do not attempt to move them further. Turtles are intimately tied to their local environments and should NEVER be relocated. They know where they are going, we are simply helping them navigate the roadways.

For more information on how to handle turtles when helping them cross the street, check out our blog post on How to Help Turtles Cross the Road.

If you do help any turtles cross the street, you can help NH Fish and Game (NHFG) keep track of populations by reporting your sightings to the Reptile and Amphibian Reporting Program. Avoid sharing any locations online to prevent poaching.

2) Get injured turtles to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator

If you do run across any injured turtles, you can save their life by taking the time to get them to a wildlife rehabilitator.

Turtles are incredibly resilient, and can survive very severe injuries if given the chance. They also take a long time to pass away, and will suffer for a long time on the side of the road before perishing. Even if that turtle does not survive, getting them to a rehabber is an act of mercy, as pain medication can be administered right away. And in the best case scenario, they may recover and be able to return home again!

Contact New Hampshire Fish & Game for a list of rehabilitators that can take in turtles, use the Animal Help Now website or phone app, or call us at (603) 417-4944.

3) Keep wild turtles in the wild

It is critical to the long-term survival of our native turtle species that individuals never be taken from the wild. If you think a turtle needs help, please call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator right away.

For more information on why its so important that turtles never be taken from the wild, check out our Keep Wild Turtles Wild blog post.

4) Never release pet turtles

Releasing pet turtles is a terrible idea for many reasons! Releasing pet turtles has resulted in the spread of deadly diseases and mass mortalities of wildlife. It's critical to the health of our native turtle species that pets not be released into the wild. Certain diseases that we know decimate turtle populations can also infect amphibians and fish, so the affects are far reaching. Serious, unrepairable damage could be done to that local ecosystem.

It's also important not to release pet turtles because it's cruel to THEM. That turtle very likely will not survive in the wild. That is especially true in a place like New Hampshire, with extremely cold times of the year. Non-native species especially will have no adaptations to survive here. And in the best case scenario for that turtle, where they survive, they may now be spreading disease and/or competing for valuable resources with our native turtles, who are already struggling with their populations declining.

If you are in need of rehoming a pet turtle, text us at (603) 417-4944 for more information. We would be happy to connect you to a local rescue. We highly recommend Redfoot Reptile Rescue which is based in Massachusetts.

5) Check on your pets when they are outdoors

Painted turtle during release

Painted turtle during release. Photo by Johnny Herrick.

It's becoming increasingly common for us to receive turtles who have had their shell gnawed on by a dog. Turtle shells are made of bone, so to our furry companions, that's just a big bone they can chew on. It's important to keep an eye on your pups when they are outside - these injuries are often fatal if not caught quickly.

6) Let turtles nest in your yard undisturbed

During nesting season (May-July), you may find a turtle nesting in your yard. It's vital she be given the space to lay her eggs. Turtles are very particular in their nesting requirements, and if she is forced to move on, she is likely to travel far, crossing roads, to find a new location to lay her eggs. Keep pets away and give her space to lay her eggs, and she will be on her way home. Hatchling turtles do not receive parental care, so she will not be back this year.

7) Know Before You Mow

Another incident we see is injuries from lawn mowers. Help wildilfe by doing a survey of your lawn before starting mowing, to identify if any critters are using your grass for cover. Box turtles in particular are known to be affected by this, and are already critically endangered in the state.