Family life

How to help a turtle cross the road

Jennifer provides the do’s and don'ts of a DIY turtle rescue.

By Jennifer Pinarski
How to help a turtle cross the road

How to safely move a turtle in the middle of a road.

During my run last night I found a turtle in the middle of the road. I thought about writing a post about how my training is at turtle speed or finding motivation by trail running. I thought I’d give you my tips on how and how not to help a turtle in danger.  
Is the turtle hurt? Take it to a turtle rescue centre, wildlife centre or zoo. Transport it in a ventilated plastic container.
Nudge the turtle off the road in the direction it was going. Don’t turn the turtle around. The turtle is on a mission, and if you turn it around, it will simply go back across the road after you leave. 
In my case, the turtle was facing neither size of the road. I actually did ask the turtle where it was going, but it didn’t answer.
If you must pick up and move the turtle, grasp it on either side of its shell behind the front legs. Never pick a turtle up by its tail — you will break their spine.
The turtle will pee on you. This tidbit wasn’t in any turtle resources I found.
Keep the turtle low to the ground when moving them. If accidently dropped, the turtle will be injured.
So picking it up for this picture may have been a bad idea?
If the turtle is large (with a long tail), it may be a snapping turtle, they can be a bit aggressive and you might not want to attempt picking it up, but you can still help it across the road. Push it from behind with a blunt object, don't use anything sharp or pokey, you don't want to hurt the turtle. 
Don't "help" a turtle by relocating it. Many turtles have a territory they call home, and when relocated, they will search out ways back. Besides risking many additional road crossings, some turtles, if they cannot find their way back will stop eating and just wander listlessly.
Great. I moved my turtle about 500 feet to the edge of a wetland. Now I can’t stop thinking if I interrupted nesting or mating and a depressed painted turtle is wandering my neighbourhood.

I tweeted Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, confessing that I moved a turtle and I'm hoping that I didn't do as much harm as I think I may have.

Have you tried to rescue a turtle the same way I thought I helped?
This article was originally published on Jun 14, 2012

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