Helping a Turtle Cross the Road

From May to September turtles are on the move! You can make a huge impact by being on the lookout for turtles crossing the road during these pivotal months. Helping a turtle cross the road can truly be the difference between life or death for that individual.

When Helping Any Turtle Across the Street:

  1. Always place them directly across the street in the direction they were headed. Never relocate.
  2. Keep low to the ground in case you lose your grip. They are surprisingly strong and can slightly scratch the skin.
  3. NEVER pick up by the tail. This will damage their backbone.

Snapping Turtles:

Demonstration on holding a snapping turtle

How to hold a snapping turtle (screenshot of Toronto Zoo's awesome instructional video)

Snapping turtles are defensive (not aggressive) out of water. This is because snapping turtles have a reduced plastron and are much more vulnerable outside of the water than other species of turtles since they cannot retract into their shell in the same way. They do not understand our intention and consequently, they will snap defensively, and can reach their head very far to either side of the body. Though it's so important to help snapping turtles cross, because they are most commonly hit on purpose.

When helping a snapping turtle, make sure to only hold the bottom 1/3rd of the shell. You can also lift onto a car mat or towel and drag them across.

For many ideas on ways to help a snapping turtle cross the road, watch this informational video by the Toronto Zoo.

All Other Turtles:

Demonstration on holding a turtle, except a snapping turtle

How to hold most turtles (not a snapping turtle)

All other turtles can be held from the middle of the shell, behind the front legs. They may retract into their shell, or flail and try to get away. Unlike snapping turtles, they will not be able to reach your hands if you hold in the middle of the shell. They have surpringly strong pushing power and also may still scratch the skin, so stay low to the ground in case you lose your grip.

If you find an injured turtle:

Your personal safety is paramount. When safe, get the turtle out of harm’s way and place in a dry box (or the Turtle Kit described below). Save the location - very important! Find a wildlife rehabilitator.

  1. 1) Container (plastic tote or cardboard box)
  2. 2) Towels (along the bottom and for hiding)
  3. 3) Bottled water for dampening the towel (NEVER transport in water)
  4. 4) Hand sanitizer for your hands