As if we all needed another reason and reminder to slow down a little bit, warmer weather has arrived finally and June is high time for turtles to start moving out of wetlands in search of nesting locations and summer habitat. Unfortunately, these slow moving creatures often have to cross busy roads to get from one wetland to another. A few reminders:

Turtles are very long-lived – the death of adult turtles hit by cars can have drastic and long-lasting effects on turtle populations, especially on rare species such as spotted and eastern box turtles. Please slow down and watch for turtles in the road in wooded or wetland areas. And incidentally, many turtle populations are becoming skewed to males because female turtles are more often hit by cars as they move frequently to and from nesting habitat.  

Spotted Turtle on Nantucket

Safety first! When it is safe to do so, help a turtle out by moving it out of the road, in the direction that it was traveling. And please, avoid the urge to move it to a location that you might consider a “better” spot for them to be. That turtle will likely spend the rest of its life trying to make it back right where you took it from – further endangering that turtle. Turtles exhibit extreme site fidelity and often visit the same wetlands year after year. They know best where they want to be.

Careful when moving snapping turtles! They may be huge and prehistoric- looking but they can be very fast and one bite will take off a finger! Don’t handle them by the sides of their shell. The best way to move them is to use a rake handle or a large sturdy stick and get them in to a barrel or bin of some sort and move them across the road.

Snapping Turtle

The amazing campers at the Maria Mitchell Association made some signs that you’ll see in some key locations soon to remind you to slow down and brake for turtles! How great are these?!

In other turtle news, some of you may remember that last October we received a report of a re-sighting of a male eastern box turtle – an exceptionally rare occurrence on Nantucket. We tracked that turtle all winter long – he emerged from hibernation in late April and has been exploring pitch pine forests along Hummock Pond Rd ever since. Early last week, we were thrilled to receive a call from Vanessa Cherner with news that she had also found a box turtle very close by – and a female! Isn’t she beautiful?

Female Eastern Box Turtle
Photo Credit: Vanessa Cherner

As it seems there may be more than a few box turtles remaining on Nantucket, we are particularly interested in any and all sightings. It would be particularly helpful if you can document your location by using a map in your phone to drop a pin and share with us, and take pictures, particularly of the top shell (carapace) and bottom (plastron) – as the markings of turtles are unique to individuals, much like our finger prints. Please call the NCF office with sightings of box turtles – (508) 228-2884.

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us now!