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Turtle Traffic Jam

November 27, 2023

Turtle Traffic Jam

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Julie Larsen and Kevin Torregrosa Julie Larsen and Kevin Torregrosa

In New York City, traffic jams are a way of life. Most towns in Maine find these snarl-ups pretty much non-existent, but I did get stuck in one on a recent sun-filled day.

I was driving along when I spotted a woman on a bike at a standstill in the center of a paved road. Thinking she might be in distress, I put on my emergency lights and stopped to help.

The bike rider was fine. She pointed to a dark, round object on the road. It was a medium-sized common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) she had been protecting.

The turtle was tucked in, enjoying the heat from the warm pavement. She said, “It doesn’t want to move. I’m not sure what to do. I’m afraid to leave it where it is.” She made a good call. Road mortalities are high for these reptiles.

I checked to see which way the turtle was traveling. Being very careful to avoid its strong bite as I was trained, I helped the turtle to continue its journey off the road, perhaps to the nearby pond.

WCS Curator of Herpetology, Kevin Torregrosa says moving turtles in the direction they were going is important. Younger turtles may be crossing roads to seek a permanent home after hatching. More generally, turtles are looking for a place to nest or are on their way back to water.

Luckily, this turtle traffic jam had a happy ending.

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