A turtle is seen on a Maine roadside in this 2020 file photo. Credit: Courtesy of MDIFW/Maine Audubon

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in June 2022.

Now that spring is truly underway, you’ll be seeing more of Maine’s turtles on the roadways.

The slow-moving animals tend to seek out the sandy shoulders of roads located near rivers and streams to lay their eggs, and in their journey to find a nesting spot, they often cross busy roadways.

There are six types of turtles in Maine that are susceptible to becoming roadkill: the Blanding’s turtle, the spotted turtle, the painted turtle, the common snapping turtle, the wood turtle and the musk turtle, according to the Maine Audubon.

Turtles tend to seek out mates throughout May, and will typically lay their eggs in late May and early June. This is when they are typically seen on roadways.

If you spot one of these reptiles crossing a roadway this summer, here are some ways you can help them out, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

  • If you spot a turtle crossing the road and there are no vehicles coming, leave the turtle and observe it from a distance to ensure that it makes it across the roadway safely.
  • If there is a likelihood that the turtle will be hit by oncoming traffic, ensure that you are safe before trying to assist. When it is safe to do so, grasp the turtle near the midpoint of the body with two hands and bring the turtle in the direction it is heading.
  • Place the turtle on the side of the road that it was moving toward, at least 30 feet away from the roadway if possible. Turtles will attempt to return to the spot they had been traveling toward, so try to avoid deviating from the direction of travel as much as possible.
  • If it is a large turtle that you cannot lift, a car mat or other material, such as a tarp, can be used to drag the turtle to a safe destination.
  • Never grab a turtle by its tail; turtle tails are part of their shell and grabbing a turtle by its tail could dislocate its spine.
  • If a turtle is nesting in your area, one way to help it is to create a simple barrier around the nest to protect the eggs from disturbance or predation.

There are a number of areas in Maine that have been identified as high-risk areas for turtles, and signs indicating turtle crossings have been erected to help protect the animals. Staying alert and vigilant while traveling can help save a life, whether your own or the life of a turtle.

For more information about Maine’s turtles, visit the MDIFW website, or contact the agency by calling 207-287-8000. The Maine Audubon can be contacted at 207-781-2330.

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Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.