Rehabilitation group warns people to look out for traveling turtles

Posted at 8:23 PM, Jun 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 21:25:05-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In the heat of the summer, turtles are often found crossing roads, or moving through yards. It's a major cause of turtle mortality.

According to Debbie Sykes of Nashville Wildlife Conservation, the two leading causes of death for turtles by people are being hit by cars or lawnmowers.

"Right now, turtles are looking for a spot to lay eggs. So, oftentimes people will see them crossing the road or maybe going out into a tall grassland to mow their lawn to lay their eggs," said Sykes.

Turtles can live as long as humans or longer. They often spend their time in the same area of two miles or less their whole lives.

With development spreading in Nashville, turtles will often venture away from old habitats looking for places to lay eggs. NWC takes in injured turtles and expects to attempt to rehabilitate more than 100 in 2021.

"Turtles are very important to the ecosystem, they're an indicator to the health of an ecosystem," said Julie Henry, who assists in NWC's mission but also works at Shelby Bottoms Greenway. Henry takes in turtle eggs and tries to hatch them in an incubator.

According to Henry, the turtle population is suffering because of man-made factors.

People are bound to see turtles on the road through Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky.

Here's what Henry and Sykes suggest people do when a turtle is on the road. As long as it's safe to park the car, a person can help the turtle across the road by picking them up and moving them in the direction they were already headed across the road.

Don't try to relocate the turtle to another place. Turtles will typically return to the place they feel is their territory. Also, many turtles are not good swimmers. So, putting them in a lake could cause harm to the turtles.

Sykes said anyone that finds an injured turtle should contact Nashville Wildlife Conservation. They'll try to help.