MDC urges motorists to give turtles a brake!

Turtles are leaving their winter burrows and crossing roads in search of grub and a mate

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Drivers may see turtles crossing the road this spring, like this ornate box turtle. These reptiles are leaving winter burrows in search of food and a mate. MDC encourages motorists to slow down and give turtles a brake. Photo courtesy MDC

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Motorists may see some reptilian friends on the roads this spring season. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) urges drivers to be cautious and give turtles a brake! These reptiles are often hit by cars during warmer months but are at special risk this time of year because they are more active.

Common turtles spotted on roads include three-toed box turtles, ornate box turtles, red-eared sliders, painted turtles, Mississippi mud turtles, and even snapping turtles.

Turtles emerge from their winter burrows and begin to hunt for food and mates during warm and wet conditions, which can lead them to cross roadways, oftentimes resulting in their death. Thousands of box turtles are killed each year by vehicles.

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Young males make up most of the travelers. They sometimes wander as many as six-miles searching for territories and mates. Females are also crossing the roads in search of nesting areas.

Turtles are ectothermic, or cold-blooded, and depend on external sources of heat to determine their body temperatures. This is why they are seen on warm asphalt during cool, spring days.

Vehicles are one of the leading threats box turtles face in Missouri, and MDC encourages motorists to be cautious and slow down if they see a turtle in the road. If helping a turtle make it safely across, check for traffic and always move the turtle in the direction it is traveling.

MDC also urges the public to leave turtles in the wild. Taking a wild animal, whether a turtle of other species, and keeping it as a pet normally ends in a slow death. Turtles have an extremely low survival rate if taken from their original habitat. Leave turtles in the wild, follow the speed limit, and keep your eyes on the road.

For more information on Missouri’s turtles, visit the MDC online Field Guide at http://short.mdc.mo.gov/4Bc/

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