Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How to save a snapping turtle

Turtles are really good at a few things: living a long time and not being eaten by most animals once they reach a certain size. They are also really bad at some things, like crossing roads. More precisely, they are really bad at not being killed by cars.

You have to see things from the turtle's perspective. For most of the last 215 million years, their basic strategy of moving slowly forward and hiding in their shells when things get dodgy has worked quite well. But the emergence of cars during the late quaternary period has thrown a wrench into the works.

Let's consider some basic turtle population biology. Generally, turtle species suffer high mortality at an early age. Few eggs will survive to be reproductive adults. Once a turtle becomes an adult, though, it can live for a very long time. Maintaining a healthy population of turtles depends on the few eggs that survive to adulthood being able to reproduce for several decades. If we throw in a few premature turtle deaths due to automobile accidents, healthy turtle populations can start to decline. Things can get much worse in light of habitat loss and fragmentation.

What is a concerned citizen to do? Well, for starters, when you see a turtle struggling to cross a road, you can help it. Pop on those emergency lights, light up some road flares and help that little guy get across that road. If it's a snapper though, please use caution. This great little video shows a guy that looks a lot like Will Farrell showing how to handle a common snapping turtle:

This video comes to us from the makers of Turtle Derby. You can check out their Kickstarter trailer after the jump.


  1. Two important things:

    1. This is arguably my favorite Damn Arbor article of all time.

    2. Important detail: Always move the turtle in the direction it was already heading. Turtles are stubborn bastards and will turn themselves around if you move them in the opposite direction.