The Minnesota Department of Transportation is once again reminding us to be on the lookout for turtles on area roads and highways across the state.

Much like the first snow, this phenomenon also happens every year here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes too: Turtles are on the move, which means you could very well run into one (and hopefully not run OVER one) along roads and highways here in Minnesota.

As MnDOT posted on their Facebook page recently, "Turtles often cross roads in late May and June to access familiar nesting locations. It's best to let them cross on their own, but if they are in danger and you can safely help them, pick them up along their shell edge near the mid-point of their body and move them in the direction they were heading," MnDOT said.

I've encountered several turtles in our neck of the woods, including just last week on the road to our transmitter site near Marion Road in southeast Rochester. Before I could pull over to help it get across, some good samaritans who live nearby had already walked over and were helping the big green fella get across the road safely. Nice!

And, that picture above is from a big 'ol snapping turtle I encountered last summer, trying to cross the road near my mom's house back in Rothschild, Wisconsin. He (or she) was the biggest I'd ever seen there-- and didn't really take kindly to us helping them across the road. (Those snappers can have a real nasty bite!)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a few tips on what to do should you come across a turtle making its way across a road or highway:

  • Don't put yourself or others in danger. Simply pulling off the road and turning on your hazard lights may alert other drivers to slow down. Be aware of your surroundings and traffic.
  • Avoid Excessive Handling. While wanting to inspect turtles closely is understandable, excessive handling can disrupt normal behavior. Prolonged examination of turtles should, therefore, be limited to only one or two individuals of each species.
  • Allow Unassisted Road Crossings. When turtles can safely cross roads unaided due to a lack of oncoming traffic allow them to do so. Observe from a distance and avoid rapid movements, as doing otherwise will often cause turtles to change direction, stop, or seek shelter within their shells.
  • Handle Turtles Gently. If necessary to pick them up, all turtles except Snappers and Softshells ("leatherbacks" - see below for more information on these species that may bite when picked up) should be grasped gently along the shell edge near the mid-point of the body. Please be advised that many turtles empty their bladder when lifted off the ground, so be careful not to drop them if they should suddenly expel water.
  • Maintain Direction of Travel. Always move turtles in the same direction they were traveling in when encountered. Turtles should always be moved across roadways in as direct a line as possible. It may seem helpful to "assist" the turtle in its journey by moving them to a nearby waterbody, but it is important to remember the phrase, "If you care, leave it there."

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