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How do you help a snapping turtle cross the road? Very carefully.

A snapping turtle can grow to over 50 pounds and has powerful jaws.
A snapping turtle can grow to over 50 pounds and has powerful jaws. Caitlin Smith

The brownish lumps you might see frozen in suburban or rural roads this spring are likely to be turtles. They’re braving traffic in search of places to lay eggs, find mates or establish territories.

Cars are such a hazard this time of year that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released tips for helping turtles safely on their way.

The familiar Eastern box turtles, North Carolina’s only terrestrial turtle, are particularly at risk from motor vehicles. Box turtles are declining across their range, according to the website herpsofnc.org, a catalog of amphibians and reptiles developed by students at Davidson College.

boxturtle
An Eastern box turtle peers from its shell. L.MUELLER Observer file photo

Snapping turtles take a bit more technique to help – they can weigh more than 50 pounds and have powerful jaws. But the Toronto Zoo produced a helpful how-to video for them too, which includes how to safely lift the turtles by the backs of their shells.

General tips from the Fish and Wildlife Service:

▪ Be safe. Signal properly before pulling off the road, and watch for oncoming vehicles.

▪ Be careful with an animal that might bite or could be injured. One option on a lightly traveled road is to simply stand guard as it crosses.

▪ Use a car mat to slide the turtle across the road without actually picking it up.

▪ Important: Always move the turtle to the side of the road in the direction it was headed.

▪ Don’t pick a turtle up by the tail, which can frighten or injure the animal and lead to bites.

▪ Don’t take it home. A box turtle taken out of its home range will often wander until it dies, herpsofnc.org says.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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