With summer approaching the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is warning drivers to beware of turtle crossings.
“So, we see turtles starting to cross the road, starting in late April, and it ramps up in May and into June,” said Veterinarian Sarah Reich. “And then June, July is when we probably see the brunt of turtles crossing the road.”
After waking up from brumation— the reptile version of hibernation– turtles are in search of water, food, mates, or nests. Nesting season is when turtle crossings really ramp up because female turtles are looking for upland areas and warmer spots to incubate their eggs.
Because asphalt heats up quickly, turtles are drawn to roads, which can be deadly. “We’ve already gotten four or five turtles, unfortunately, that have been hit by cars. And I think only two of them have actually survived,” said Reich.
Luckily, turtles that survive can be rehabilitated at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center.
“[the car] sheared off the top of his shell,” said Reich while holding a turtle that’s been rehabilitated. “Both of his scapula were actually exposed, and you could see them moving. And so, we actually didn’t know if this guy was going to heal over appropriately or not. But he did great.”
The Forest Preserve District says that even one turtle dying can have a lasting impact on populations.
“90% of the adults need to survive year after year annually to maintain a stable population,” said Ecologist Dan Thompson. “If adult populations, mortality loss brings them below 90%, your population actually starts to decline.”
Roads near lakes, ponds and marshes can be turtle-crossing hotspots, so it’s important to be very cautious around these areas. “Watch your speed. Pay attention, don’t be texting or on your phone. Focus on your driving do not tailgate,” said Thompson.
Turtle Handling Techniques
If you do happen to hit a turtle on the road, first find a safe place to pull over. If the turtle is unharmed, point them back in the right direction. However, if the turtle is injured, “get them in a box or a towel. Wrap them up and then bring them over to us or to wherever their local wildlife rehabilitator is,” said Reich.
If you encounter a snapping turtle the Wildlife Center has a video that shows safe handling techniques.
The Willowbrook Wildlife Center accepts wildlife patients from 9 am to 5 pm daily. Visitors must call ahead to arrange for contactless curbside drop-offs.
Naperville News 17’s Becky Budds reports.
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