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Marion Larson

Marion Larson

Outreach Coordinator, MassWildlife

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It was early June and I was driving in the Northampton area when I saw a turtle the size of a football crossing the road. I had to straddle it with the vehicle and realized while parking that it was not a snapping turtle but a wood turtle, a species on the state endangered list. It was the first time I had seen a rare turtle on my own! Fortunately I had a camera and before I placed the animal safely on the side of the road, I snapped the pictures here and filed a report with our Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program.

June through September is a time when normally aquatic turtles leave the relative safety of their water world and venture overland in search of nesting sites. MassWildlife biologists have been fielding phone calls and emails from people seeing these animals in their yards, on rural roads, and busy highways. Many people want to help these turtles, an understandable instinct, but take the advice of our specialists on responsible turtle assistance!

  1. Be sure to consider your own safety when helping a turtle across the road. Don’t put yourself or other people in harm’s way.
  2. Always move a turtle across the road in the direction it is heading. Large snappers may be safely held with one hand on the tail and another hand slid under the turtle to support its weight. Picking turtles up only by the tail can damage their spine. I’ve used a shovel to push the big ones across a street! Other smaller turtles can be safely held by the sides of the shell.
  3. Don’t take turtles elsewhere! Turtles travel to the same nesting areas year after year and do not know where to nest or how to return to its home range if moved. Some turtles species only live on land, so taking them to a pond or other location is ineffective (and illegal).
  4. Report rare turtles! Take a picture of both the underside (plastron) and top side (carapace) of the turtle to assist in identification and fill out a Rare Species Observation form 

Wood Turtles

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Safe crossings to all!

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