Caution: Turtle Crossing!

Posted by Caitlyn Preast on

Happy Friday, everyone! So, I know I said last week that blog posts would be bi-weekly, and they would be on a Saturday or a Sunday, but I felt like this week I was called on for a purpose. 

Over the course of three days this week, I found TWO box turtles crossing the road where I was driving. After I saw the first one, I thought, "Oooh, that's going to be a cool tidbit to add to my blog post for next week!" Then, I found the second one two days later and realized, "Okay, God, I hear you. I will post about turtles on my blog this week and spread some a w a r e n e s s".

This then led me down a rabbit hole on giphy looking for cute images to add to this post, so... here are a couple of my favorites:

OK.. Back to the box turtle story...

If you are unfamiliar with a North American/Eastern box turtle, here's some cool tidbits of information I found on Wikipedia:

  • They are North American turtles of the genus Terrapene and members of the American pond turtle family.
  • The average life span of adult box turtles is FIFTY years, and a large amount of them tend to live over 100 years!!

I'd say a 100-year-old turtle moves at this pace.

  • They have a domed shell which is hinged at the bottom, allowing the animal to retract its head and legs and close its shell tightly to protect itself from predators.
  • Their most common predators are minks, skunks, raccoons, and dogs -- but a large amount of box turtles have fallen victim to pet trade and loss of habitat, which is causing the population to dwindle.
  • The most widely distributed species of box turtle -- the Terrapene carolina -- is classified as vulnerable, while Terrapene ornata is in a lower category as near threatened.
  • Most box turtles brought in from the wild to keep as house pets do not live long past their relocation (you'll read why in the next bullet point).
  • Lastly, and most importantly, box turtles deeply connect to the location where they are born. Rarely do they travel far from this general area, and they tend to stay nearby for the entire duration of their lives.

US Fish and Wildlife did an article on Medium a few years ago about how to safely help a turtle crossing the road, which is a major cause of turtle population declines in North America now that areas are becoming more urbanized. I make sure to follow these guidelines any time I come across one of these little friends, and I encourage you to do the same!

So, the first box turtle I ran into this week (figuratively) I think might have been a small little Florida box turtle crunched inside its shell in the middle of the road.

 small turtle in roadway

He/she was not super amused at my disturbing them, if you look closely, and looked like it wanted to be left alone since its arms/leg/head weren’t stretched out at all. It looked like a rock in the middle of the road, honestly, before I slowed down enough to see what it actually was… so I feel like I did him/her a favor.

You’re welcome, grumpy little turtle!

It was safely placed on the edge of the roadway — in the same direction it was traveling (or maybe just hoping to go once it was finished sitting in the road?)— and I went on my way.

Turtle in grass
The second one -- a standard Eastern box turtle, I think -- was found by my husband on his way down our hill. I was just a few seconds behind him in a different car when I saw this fella fully stretched out trying to cross in a hurry!

turtle in roadwayMaybe it was late for a meeting?

This turtle was a bigger one than the first one I saw this week, and Jeff immediately called me to make sure I saw it and could get it. I turned on my hazard lights so anyone else coming down the hill would stop or slow down and got out to help it across the road.

Turtle in gravel
Why did the turtle cross the road?
To get to Tudor’s, probably.

Finding these little creatures and helping them out of harm’s way is one of my favorite summer activities. Everyone in my family knows how much I enjoy it, too. They probably also fear I will be run over in the process of helping a turtle live.

Oh, well — for the greater good, right?

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has recently begun an effort to document box turtle sightings across the state. You can help the effort by clicking this link whenever you find a box turtle in your travels!

Be sure to take a photo and let the website know that you helped it cross the roadway to safety.

You can read more about the box turtle survey effort by the WV DNR in this article from WOAY in Oak Hill, WV. More information on box turtle conservation can be found on this website.

In your adventures this summer, be sure to look where you're driving/walking/running/etc. and keep an eye out for these cute little creatures!

To finish off this blog post, I couldn't leave out these super important, culturally significant gifs related to turtles, so, here ya go:

Until next time,

- Cait

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