Watch out for turtle crossings, says Will County Forest Preserve

Close up of a turtle
Donate Today

With the warm temperatures arriving, the Forest Preserve District of Will County warns drivers to keep an eye out for turtles crossing the road.

Nesting season

Turtles are on the move, forest preserve officials say, as they go on the hunt for a spot to nest.

“While turtles spend much of their lives in water, right about now is when we start seeing turtles on land. That’s because all turtles must nest on land, and this time of year is when they begin scouting out nesting locations,” said Becky Blankenship, wildlife ecologist for the Forest Preserve District of Will County.

Turtle nests are most commonly found by roads near bodies of water because the female turtles are attracted to the heat of the asphalt. Turtles typically lay eggs between May and early July.

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, turtle nests are flask-shaped holes, which female turtles dig out with their back feet. The amount of eggs in the nest depends on the size of the turtle. Small turtles may only lay three to five eggs, while larger snapping turtles can lay up to 40.

Drivers urged to keep an eye out

Though turtles have hard shells, they are no match for a car. And being slow movers, a horn or flashing lights won’t do much to speed them across the road, so it’s up to drivers to keep an eye out and avoid them as best as safely possible.

Drivers should be particularly mindful if on a road near a lake or pond.

How to safely move a turtle

If you do come across a turtle crossing the road, it’s better to let it cross on its own.

But if you think it may be in danger, and it’s safe for you to move it, the best way, forest preserve officials say, is to pick it up by both sides of the shell behind the front legs and hold it low to the ground in case it kicks loose.

“One important tip when moving a turtle off a roadway: Always move it in the direction it was traveling, even if it seems to be moving away from the water source where it lives. Turtles know where they are going, and if you place it in a spot opposite from the direction it was headed, it will try to cross the road once again, “ said Blankenship.

But be warned: a turtle being moved is prone to scratch or bite, and will likely urinate on its mover.

If you come across a snapping turtle, the forest preserve’s monthly nature show, The Buzz, has a video that shows how to safely move one.

If you have a story idea, we want to hear from you!