It’s that time of the year - the time of the year when turtles are out and about, crossing roadways to breed or lay eggs, and - soon - hatching from said eggs and making their journey to their habitat. It’s also the time of the year when turtles, already suffering from habitat loss and fragmentation, are frequently picked up by people of both good and bad intentions, and disrupted during this crucial time in their reproductive lives.
Here are a few tips for not being an asshole when you encounter a turtle: 1. If it is not in danger or distress, leave it alone. I promise it doesn’t want to be in your selfie, nor does it want to be hassled, relocated, or “helped” into the nearest waterway. Turtles have been around for billions of years; they know what they’re doing. Give them space. 2. If it is in the road, and you can safely stop, please help it cross in the direction it was heading. Then follow step one and leave it alone. 3. If it is tiny and seems impossibly small and helpless in the big ugly world… follow step one and leave it alone. Turtle hatchlings are indeed small, but it doesn’t mean they are too small to survive without your intervention. Unless it is in danger or distress, trust that the baby turtle knows where it is heading and is, in fact, on an important species survival mission that must not be interrupted by you, no matter how omgcute it is. 4. If it IS in danger or distress, contact your local wildlife agency for information on how to proceed and contacts for wildlife rehabilitators. In many states, turtles are protected by law and even injured or infirm turtles can not be legally housed by anyone but a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. And if a turtle is injured or infirm, its absolute BEST chance at survival is in the capable hands of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. 5. Do not ever remove a turtle from the wild to keep as a pet. Even if it’s tiny and cute. Even if it’s big and cool. Even if it was crossing the road. Even if it showed up in your yard. As mentioned above, many turtle species are protected by law, and even those that aren’t? Deserve to be out there in nature, living and breeding. If you want a pet turtle, responsibly obtain a captive bred specimen from a breeder (after doing your research). Or, adopt a turtle from a reptile rescue - trust me, as someone who rescues turtles, there are a TON of them needing qualified homes.