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May through July is prime nesting time for many of Maine’s native turtles. During this time, turtles often cross roads, sometimes with fatal consequences. Lauren McPherson of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries offers this advice for helping turtles cross roads:

  • If you come across a turtle crossing the road and there is no oncoming traffic, allow the turtle to continue crossing without help. Observe from a distance to ensure it safely reaches the other side. If traffic is coming, don’t put yourself or others in danger, wait until traffic has slowed or stopped before assisting.
  • If you pick a turtle up to assist, handle it carefully. Gently grasp the shell edge near the mid-point of the body with two hands and bring the turtle in the direction it is heading.
  • Try to place the turtle at least 30 feet away from the roadside. Do not attempt to move the turtle to a different area, as the turtle will attempt to return to its original spot.
  • Never grab a turtle by its tail – it could cause dislocation of its spine!
  • If the turtle is large and heavy, such as a snapping turtle, you can use a car mat to slide the turtle with.

In addition to helping turtles cross the road successfully, there are other ways you can help conserve Maine’s turtles. If a turtle is nesting on your property, erect a simple barrier around the nest once the turtle has left the area to protect the eggs from possible disturbance or predation. You can also volunteer as a citizen scientist by contributing valuable data to the Maine Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project or to the Maine Turtle Roadkill Survey. Learn more about Maine’s turtles and projects here.

Trails Committee Member Kevin McKeon adds that he has observed several turtles in recent days preparing their nests on the Rail Trail itself, NOT crossing the trail to get to the other side. Since the railroad company ceased operations, the turtles have learned that the gravel bed makes for a wonderful nesting area. A turtle egg embryo attaches to the inner egg membrane. Vibrations disturb these delicate connections, often resulting in embryo destruction.

The average reproductive success from egg-laying adult to egg laying adult is one every 30 years. Egg nests get predated by many critters; baby turtles are eaten as they make their way to water; they get eaten in the water. Add the mortality from trail use, and extirpation can be possible within our kids’ lifetime. They will certainly become a rarity. The Trails Committee is requesting that users, including hikers, bikers, and ATV’s, please use utmost caution on the trails during nesting season.

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