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Science & Environment

Missouri Department Of Conservation Urges Motorists 'To Give Turtles A Brake'

Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Why did the turtle cross the road? Because it’s turtle mating season in Missouri.

Department of Conservation spokesman Joe Jerek says young male turtles are usually in search of territory while females are trying to nest.

“And if you think about it, comfort’s also a factor for turtles. They’re reptiles. As reptiles, they’re cold-blooded, so basking on a warm asphalt road feels good on a cool spring day,” Jerek says.

Unfortunately every year some of these turtles end up getting hit by cars.

“Good-hearted souls a lot of times want to help turtles cross the road,” says Jerek, which the Department of Conservation encourages so long as it is safe to do so. “You know, check for traffic around you, and if all is clear, move the turtle across the road in the direction it’s traveling.”

Credit Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation
Use caution moving common snapping turtles across the road. Always move turtles in the direction of travel.

That last part is important – Jerek says if you move a turtle back to where it came from, it’ll just try to cross again. One of the safest ways to pick up a turtle is with a plastic snow shovel because in Missouri snapping turtles are common.

If you do end up handling a turtle, Jerek says to make sure to wash your hands after.

Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

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