Brake for turtles Birmingham!

Turtle Alabama
Learn how to save a turtle Birmingham! Photo by Pat Byington

Last week, the Urban Turtle Project released a graphic on social media encouraging people to brake for turtles and how to move them, if it is safe, when they are crossing the road.

The Urban Turtle Project is a new local project that works to document and conserve the turtle populations in the urban waterways of Birmingham.

Graphic released by the Urban Turtle Project  in Birmingham

After seeing the graphic, Bham Now reached out to Mark Bailey, the co-author of  Turtles of Alabama about why turtles cross roadways this time of year and how you can help them “move along.”

Turtles Birmingham
Mark Bailey, co-author of Turtles of Alabama
Why do turtles cross the road more often in the Spring?

With spring coming on, aquatic turtles of many species are leaving the water to find nesting sites on land, and terrestrial box turtles will be roaming for food, especially following rains.

Unfortunately this means thousands end up on roads where they are in great danger of being killed.

Alabama Biodiversity
Razor Backed Musk Turtle (Photo by Mark Bailey)
What is the reaction of a turtle when it is confronted by a car?

Once a car straddles or whizzes past a turtle, its instinct is to withdraw into its shell, and it may be minutes before it feels safe enough to continue. Each additional passing car frightens the turtle all over again and “resets the clock,” so to speak, so the turtle can be essentially stranded on even a moderately traveled road.

Alabama aquatic biodiversity
One of two species of Alligator Snapping Turtle in Alabama. Photo by Eric Soehren

Tips on moving a turtle across the road

Turtles are an important component of local ecosystems, and they can live for decades. If you see a turtle in the road and it is safe to pull over, you may save its life by placing it across the road in the direction it is headed. Do not take it to another place where you think it may be safer, because turtles have a strong homing instinct and will likely try to get back to where it came from.

To avoid being bitten by a large snapping turtle, you can shove it from the rear with your foot. People trying to save turtles have been killed by oncoming cars, and if visibility is limited, traffic is too heavy, or there is  any question in your mind if it is a safe place to stop, by all means do not risk your life or anyone else’s.

With all this rainy weather, and temperatures rising, be on the lookout Birmingham for turtles on our roads. If it is safe, help them along.

Want to learn more and be a part of the turtle protection movement in Birmingham? Like the Urban Turtle Project page on Facebook and follow their activities.
Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

Articles: 2012