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June 21, 2022

By Suzy Allman, TEAC member

If you’re driving around the lakes in Tarrytown this time of year, you’re likely to see a turtle crossing the road. During the early summer, many female turtles cross roads bearing eggs, moving toward familiar nesting areas.  Neperan Road — the road that encircles the two Tarrytown Lakes — can be especially hazardous to box and snapping turtles making the hair-raising crossing.

If you help a turtle cross a road, you’re making a valuable contribution to the preservation of North America’s turtles.

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Here are tips from MATTS, the Mid Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society, to help you help turtles navigate the nesting season in Tarrytown:

What’s the right way to help a turtle cross a road?

Don’t put yourself or others in danger. Simply pulling off the road and turning on your hazard lights may alert other drivers to slow down. Be aware of your surroundings and traffic.

Maintain the Turtle’s Direction of Travel. Always move a turtle in the same direction it was traveling when you saw it. Place the turtle at least 30 feet off the road (not on the roadside), so if startled by the experience, the turtle does not get disoriented and accidentally run back into the roadway, or freeze and get run over. Turtles should always be moved across roadways in as direct a line as possible. You might be tempted to “help” the turtle by moving it to a wooded area or water body, but the correct solution is to quickly move the turtle the shortest distance possible.

Avoid Excessive Handling. While wanting to examine turtles closely is hard to resist, excessive handling can disrupt their normal behavior.

Allow Unassisted Road Crossings. If there’s no oncoming traffic, let the turtle cross the road without help. Observe from a distance and avoid sudden movements that may startle it, otherwise the turtle may change direction, stop, or seek shelter within its shell.

Handle Turtles Gently. If you must pick up a turtle, gently grasp the shell edge near the mid-point of the body with two hands (see Handling Turtles). Some turtles empty their bladder when lifted off the ground, so be careful not to drop it if it suddenly does. Never pick up a snapping turtle by the tail — it’s connected to his spine, and can break it. (See video link below!)

Snapping turtles can present a special challenge. Watch this video on how to help them cross.

How to help a Snapping Turtle Cross the Road

bike and rail trail with turtle crossing on tracks
photo: Suzy Allman

By the Way: If you’ve traveled along the Empire State Trail in Pawling, New York, you may have noticed this creative solution to helping turtles cross train tracks. Stone “turtle bridges”, repeated at 75-feet intervals, are an inexpensive solution that helps turtles find their way over steep railroad rails.

The Tarrytown Environmental Advisory Council (TEAC) is a volunteer, citizen-led committee established by the Village of Tarrytown in 1974 to advise the mayor, the Board of Trustees and other local boards on environmental matters.

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