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Why did the turtle cross the road? She has a good reason, so don't move her!

Turtle in road
Bridget
/
stock.adobe.com

Let's say you're some distance from a pond or stream, and you see a turtle slowly moving away from the water.

Wildlife biologist Scott Smith with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said you should resist the urge to pick it up and take it back.

"It was going someplace for a purpose, and it just spent a lot of energy doing that," he explained. "If it was coming across that yard to get to a nesting location on the other side, it's going to do that again and you just cost it that much more energy."

Of course, a turtle in the middle of the road might need your help.

Thousands of turtles are killed each year in New York by unsuspecting drivers who might not see them or perhaps mistake them for a rock.

"If it's safe, stop and help that turtle go in the direction it was going," said Scott, who stressed that personal safety comes first and people should not go out on a busy road to move a turtle.

The best way to pick up a turtle is to lift it near the rear of the shell using both hands. Don't pick it up or drag it by the tail, though. That could cause an injury.

And if it's a snapping turtle — distinguished by its jagged, dinosaur-like tail — be extra careful.

"Usually," Scott said, "they'll open their mouth quite wide and let you know they're not terribly happy with the situation."

He suggested placing a snapping turtle in a tub or wrapping it in a blanket to relocate it.

All 11 species of land turtles native to New York are in decline, according to the DEC.

Smith said that's partly due to habitat loss, along with the removal of the reptiles from the wild to keep as pets, which is illegal.

Because they are long-lived reptiles and it takes many years for a turtle to reach maturity, experts say the loss of just one mature female can negatively affect a local turtle population.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.