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DEC urges New York drivers to 'Give Turtles a Brake'

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Tue, May 21st 2024 12:45 pm

Each May and June, motorists advised to be on the alert for turtles crossing roads

√ World Turtle Day is May 23

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar reminds New Yorkers that turtles are nesting in May and June, and encourages motorists to “Give Turtles a Brake.”

In New York, thousands of turtles are killed each year by unsuspecting drivers when turtles cross roads to find nesting areas.

“Vehicle strikes are a major cause of mortality among turtles and, at this time of year, turtles are particularly vulnerable as they seek sandy areas or loose soil in which to lay their eggs," Mahar says. "When travelling on roads near rivers and marshy areas, DEC encourages drivers on New York roads to slow down and keep a lookout for turtles in our communities.”

Drivers who see a turtle on the road are encouraged to slow down to avoid hitting it with their vehicle. If the vehicle can safely stop – and drivers are able to safely do so – motorists should consider moving the turtle to the shoulder on the side of the road in the direction it was facing. Motorists are advised not to pick turtles up by their tails, which could injure the turtle. Most turtles, other than snapping turtles, can be picked up safely by the sides of their shells. Snapping turtles have necks that can reach far back and have a strong bite, and should be picked up by the rear of the shell near the tail using both hands, or dragged safely across the road on a mat or blanket. Never drag turtles by the tail, as doing so can dislocate the tail bones.

A licensed wildlife rehabilitator may be able to help if an injured turtle is found.

DEC reminds people not to take turtles home. All native turtles are protected by law and cannot be kept without a DEC permit. Most of the 11 species of land turtles that are native to New York are in decline. Turtles are long-lived species, and it takes many years for a turtle to reach maturity. Losing even one mature female can have a negative impact on a local population. 

Learn more about New York's native turtles on DEC's website.

DEC recognizes May 23 as World Turtle Day. American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection of all species of tortoise and turtle, created World Turtle Day to celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. These gentle animals have been around for 200 million years, yet are rapidly disappearing due to smuggling, the exotic food industry, climate change, loss of habitat, and the illegal pet trade.

Follow @NYSDEC's social media accounts on May 23 for more information about turtles in the state.

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