It’s that time of year – every time you take a drive, you see turtles bravely making their way across the road. Turtles across Michigan are at the height of their nesting season, and the water bodies near the Bird Sanctuary make this area a hotspot for turtle traffic.
Why did the turtle cross the road?
In early summer, female turtles leave the water in search of a nesting spot with just the right conditions: sunny, moist soil, and few plants. They will cross fields, forests and roads in search of this nesting spot, and you can help them on their journey there! Here’s what (and what not) to do:
- Don’t assist with the turtle if you don’t have to. If the road has little traffic and the turtle is moving swiftly, let it be.
- Don’t turn the turtle around or move them to a new area – let them continue in the direction they were heading.
- If you must handle the turtle, do so gently and never pick up a turtle by their tail – lift the turtle by the back of their shell only.
- Softshell and snapping turtles can bite and need some extra care – use a long object to nudge them along.
Once the perfect spot is found, the turtle will use her hind legs to dig a shallow nest in which she will lay her eggs before departing and leaving her offspring to hatch on their own. Turtle nests are vulnerable to predation and eggs are often burgled by raccoons, skunks, and opossums before they can hatch. If you find a turtle nest, you can assist in keeping the eggs safe by placing a permeable barrier over the nest—such as an upside-down wire basket weighed down by a large rock—that keeps large predators out while allowing the juvenile turtles to depart the nest.
More about Michigan turtles
Several turtle species in Michigan are threatened or listed as species of special concern. You can learn more about these species, and how to support their recovery, from the Michigan DNR: https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/education/michigan-species/reptiles/turtles
Corinn Rutkoski is a doctoral candidate in the Evans Lab at KBS and the 2023 Kellogg Bird Sanctuary social media fellow.