Watch for Baby Turtles Now On Area Roads

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A toonie-sized baby Painted Turtle rescued from the road, only minutes after emerging from its overwintering nest April 8. Photo Credit: Rod Steinacher.
Submitted by Rod Steinacher

With the very warm weather of last week, followed by some spring rains that softened the ground, baby Painted Turtles are digging their way out of the nests where they spent the past winter. Many of these nests are in the gravel embankments along local roadways.

Painted Turtles, at least those living this far north in their range, hatch out of their eggs in the fall. They spend the winter underground as babies, freezing solid, waiting for the warmth of spring to signal that it’s time for them to emerge from the nest. Apparently, this is a better survival strategy than overwintering in local marshes and lakes, like our local Snapping Turtles.

 Tiny exit hole from a turtle nest, with anti-predator protective box over another nest in the background. Photo Credit: Rod Steinacher.

As the baby Painted Turtles scurry to the safety of nearby water, they often travel across roads, where they are at extreme risk of being crushed by passing cars. They are so tiny they are hard to see; after all, they are only about the size of a toonie, and local drivers are not expecting them to be on the roads at this time of year.

If it is safe to do so, observant drivers can easily move the baby turtles well off the road, preferably in the direction they are already headed, which is usually in the direction of the nearest water. It might not seem like much, but over their 20 to 30 year lifespan, they can go on to produce many, many more Painted Turtles!