It’s turtle time! Give turtles a brake

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

It’s turtle nesting time, which means they will once again be crossing our roads in search of food, their ideal nesting spot, to seek a mate, or to travel about. So please slow down, stop, and possibly get out and help them cross.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

It’s turtle nesting time, which means they will once again be crossing our roads in search of food, their ideal nesting spot, to seek a mate, or to travel about. So please slow down, stop, and possibly get out and help them cross.
Two nature-oriented organizations are asking us to take special care on the roads to avoid injuring or killing them.
While many species are small enough to pick up very carefully (not ever by the tail please, which can permanently damage the spine), tips are always helpful, particularly when considering large, heavy snapping turtles.
Canadian Wildlife Federation
See a large snapping turtle? What to do? The CWF offers an online video showing ways to safely help move this species (bit.ly/2He60is). I’ll review a few features here, but I recommend viewing it yourself.
First, pull over safely and turn on your vehicle’s emergency flashing lights on to warn other drivers. Sometimes if there is traffic, I stand on the shoulder and wave my arms up and down, alerting drivers to slow down. This works.
What’s crucial is to move the turtle in the direction it’s headed.
The video concentrates on snapping turtles because this “prehistoric-looking” animal can deliver a nasty bite or a bad scratch – and we don’t want to drop these animals. So, how to move one?
“Wheelbarrow” a snapping turtle slowly across the road. Grip the back part of its shell on either side of the tail (curve your fingers underneath the shell), lift the turtle up so it’s walking on its front feet, then gently encourage it across the road.
Or, get a stick or car mat, get the turtle to bite it, then walk it across the road.
Defence strategies of snapping turtles include swinging their “telescoping” neck and head around to bite you, paddling their legs to scratch you and yes, shooting urine out to deter predators.
Nature Conservancy of Canada
This organization’s video features other, less intimidating species such as painted turtles. This is good because we will surely see these other species as we’re driving our Outaouais country roads. Watch the NCC’s YouTube video: bit.ly/2sxUqZY
The Conservancy also asks us all to report turtle sightings because they are conducting an inventory of species. Although primarily interested in Québec sightings, they will accept Ontario ones as well. Sign up for their newsletter, Carapace, on the organization’s website: carapace.ca. To locate the online report, look at the top bar menu, and click on “Sighting Report”.
All eight Québec turtle species are displayed here to assist identification: musk, blanding’s, map, wood, spiny softshell, spotted, painted and snapping turtles.
It’s wise of the NCC to have chosen a variety of turtles on its video, because not all turtles require the same technique as we’ve just learned for the snapping turtle. When approached or picked up, some smaller turtles will simply draw their heads, legs and tails into their shell. So, view the NCC’s video to learn how we can sometimes carefully grasp turtles on either side of their shell by placing our hands securely between their front and back legs.
Let’s make a difference
What is important to understand is that turtles don’t recognize roads as being
dangerous. They’re just doing their thing: crossing a surface to get where they want to go.
As human beings, we understand the danger vehicles pose, so we can make the choice to safely assist them. Learning how to do so is important for us – and for the turtle.

Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author and visual artist. Contact her at fletcher.katharine@gmail.com; check her art at facebook.com/Katharine
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