What do you do when you see a BOX TURTLE crossing the road?

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  1. tsadjatko profile image64
    tsadjatkoposted 12 years ago

    Every adult box turtle is vital to the future of its population. Box turtle populations in the fragmented habitats typical of the eastern United States are so sensitive to the loss of adults that, according to modeling studies conducted by Dr. Richard Seigel of Towson University, the loss of just three from a population of 50 males and 50 females could doom that population to a slow, but irreversible, decline to extinction.

    Most box turtles never survive the eight or so years that it takes to reach breeding age: Foxes, skunks, raccoons, opossums, crows, turkeys, domestic dogs and cats, and other animals won't hesitate to eat turtle eggs and young turtles whose shells are not yet hard enough to provide much protection. Those turtles who do survive must contend not only with roads, but also with an increasing loss of their habitats to development, which in turn brings more roads, more dogs and cats, and more people who tend to take turtles from the wild, thinking that they will make good pets. Every one of the 50 or so years that a wild female box turtle might live is crucial in ensuring that, of the 3 to 5 eggs she may lay a year, at least one of her young survives to adulthood to replace her in the population.

    The conventional "wisdom" is to place the box turtle on the other side of the road in the direction it is headed. From what I understand about that point of view you have to approach it this way...if you take an animal out of the wild, you have guaranteed that this individual, its progeny, and its progeny's progeny have been removed. If you move it to the other side of the road, it has a chance to stay in the wild and survive. Even if it is run over in subsequent years, some of its progeny may survive, and then some of its progeny's progeny. For the purposes of wild populations, leaving the animal is certainly the best chance to keep numbers as high as possible. Does it mean that you may see the animal squished later? Yes. But, it may be worth it in the long run for the population if it has the chance to produce young in the meantime.

    Sounds reasonable. Sadly, whoever came up with that blanket conclusion to place the box turtle on the other side of the road did not think it through and in most cases is misleading the good Samaritan to doom the animal (that could live to be over a hundred years old) to a premature death (in which case their are no progeny and if there were they would most likely encounter the same premature end). If this conventional "wisdom" was always the best advice, there would not be areas throughout the United States where large populations of box turtles disappeared in one generation once roads went in. But, I have to say I agree with this conventional reasoning if ...... the road is a little traveled road or trail out in the country or wild and not a relatively recent result of development that is ongoing in the area. The latter is where the most people will encounter the most box turtles crossing a road and that leads me to why I disagree with the conventional "wisdom" in most cases............ and I'll tell you why. 

    First of all, there is the obvious:

    Because the turtle is pointing in one direction when you arrive doesn't mean that was the direction in which the turtle was headed  - I've seen turtles hit and spun around unhurt or flipped and freeze, closed up there on the road with fear. I've seen them get in the road and turn around because of fear of the traffic. Unless you were watching them as they approached the road you can't say for sure where they were originally headed.

    Box Turtles spend much of their life buried under leaves and in fauna but they love to come out during and after rains to rehydrate and forage for worms and insects brought out by the rain, often following drainage ditches (many drainage gulleys are along roads) and areas that temporarily fill with rain water. They navigate by the sun to find their home range so if it rains for several days with constant cloud cover they can wander aimlessly sometimes out of their range and thus may cross a road they normally wouldn't go near. You help them to the other side so that when the sun comes out the next morning, they realize they are lost and start back to their home range over the same road you helped them cross.

    Every situation is different; other factors like the nature of the locality, type of road, and instinctual behavior of this species should be taken into account before a decision is made to "help" this turtle.  So .......

    To begin with we need to answer the proverbial question,  "Why did the chicken (turtle) cross the road?"

    And the answer for Box turtles is not "to get on the other side"!

    These turtles cross the road for these 3 reasons:

    (1) The road crosses their home range, possibly dividing hibernation sites from nesting sites.

    (2) They have been taken from their home range and are obeying their homing instinct to get back.

    (3) They are forced to search for or move to greener pastures because of construction and development of their home range. 

    If in the case of number (1) the road crosses the turtle's home range - Studies show that adult box turtles dwell in a home range of up to 3 or 4 acres. Hatchlings' home ranges can be measured by square yards for years and the range grows as they grow. So, why would anyone conclude that moving the turtle to the side of the road in the direction he was headed would help him when the road probably dissects its home range or as it matures its home range is growing to encompass the road? Often nesting turtles lay their eggs near roads where the shoulder's have been cleared making ideal nest sites in the sun usually accompanied by a drainage ditch near the road providing a moist ideal habitat these turtles like. Nothing like having your babies grow up playing next to a highway! As their home range expands from square yards to acres where do you think they'll wind up? I have often found several very young box turtles squished on the same stretch of road over a couple seasons within a few yards of each other. Mature box turtles travel every year within their home range to and from their hibernating grounds and if female, their nesting sites. If its home range, encompasses this road and it must cross the road for either of these reasons or just to forage how many times do you think he will be crossing that road again in a year let alone.....in the next 50 years? He doesn't have much of a chance of living a long life!

    If in the case of number (2) the turtle is obeying his homing instinct - that means, as happens often, someone, ignorant of the turtle's natural behavior, has captured this turtle and later discovered they don't make the greatest pets and released it far (usually many miles) from where it was found. So the good Samaritan moves the turtle to the other side of the road so it can continue in the direction of its home range miles away only to encounter every road between here and there, let alone dogs, people, lawnmowers and dangerous things he may encounter on his way! If this is the case he doesn't have a chance of living a long life!

    If in the case of number (3) the turtles are searching for or moving to greener pastures - Their habitat and/or population has been destroyed by development of real estate, building of roads, or nature (floods, disease, forest fire) and they are forced to relocate to find food, a mate, nesting grounds or hibernation sites.  These turtles are often already stressed, starved, possibly diseased or injured and are such slow travelers there is little chance they will outrun or survive the pace of development, natural disaster or make it to greener pastures which may not exist and its homing instinct may bring him right back to a home range that has been replaced by roads, concrete, buildings and bulldozers. I hate to say it but...he doesn't have a chance of living a long life either! 

    Think about it. If you have lived for more that 35 years, I am sure you can probably remember finding box turtles crossing roads when you were young or throughout your life where there has been development over the years - chances are box turtles are no longer found on those roads, right? And why is that - did the turtles that survived learn to stay off roads or have a genetic disposition to avoid roads and now through "unnatural" selection a large population of turtles that avoid highways still lives there? If that were true it would mean that population has also lost the instinct to travel to a suitable hibernation site or suitable nesting site. What would that have done to their survival rate and longevity? Instinctive behavior does not die that easily.

    The truth of the matter is when you see a box turtle crossing the road, leaving the turtle at that location is most likely a death sentence for that turtle and its progeny (unless as I said before it is a road or trail in the wild out of the way of development and a growing local population). If you truly wish to be a good Samaritan, the best course of action (if it can safely be done for the box turtle on the road) is to capture the box turtle and immediately try to locate a local box turtle refuge, turtle rescue, a local herp society knowledgeable about this species, or put it up for adoption to lifelong collectors who know what they are doing (easy to do today with the internet and modern communications). There it can be protected and cared for by dedicated enthusiasts who are knowledgable about the box turtle's instinctive behavior and probably live a long life and multiply. There are many people with collections that successfully propagate these turtles at a rate many times what is found in the wild due to predation, disease and roadkill.

    As I said, in most cases I believe this would be the best course of action for the turtle - sadly it may not be for you because in some states you could be fined up to $5000 for saving the turtle's life. Although well intentioned to curb collecting of turtles for the pet trade, these states most likely were listening to the same "experts" that say "place the turtle on the other side of the road in the direction he is headed" when passing that law. I wonder why, if the goal is to protect populations of this animal, the same lawmakers don't fine the developer who bulldozes dozens of boxies to their death on several acres of development, purposely and deliberately targeting and destroying habitat with no regard of the helpless Box turtle which could easily be collected and preserved from the property before and even while clearing is conducted. Volunteers will do that! But a $5000 fine to the well intentioned "samaritan" who can't bear to see the animal squished and stops to save the animal is going to solve the problem? Can you answer that question?

    Although relocating and finding a suitable protectorate for a box turtle runs its own risks, those risks are far less than leaving the turtle in a home range crossed by a road where it is virtually guaranteed by its own instinctual behavior to be subject to a premature death and consequently a steady decline in the population of that area because of a growing human population. So what if removing the turtle will speed up the already destined decline in the population in a developing area - there shouldn't be a turtle population where the progeny will be slaughtered daily year after year as soon as they start to mature and expand their range. They should be relocated to anywhere they can live their 100 year lifespan. In todays world, with the communications we now have to disseminate important information to promote the proper care of these animals and to place them where they will thrive and procreate this is an EASY task.

    I live by a 4 lane interstate with a wooded median between the two lanes in either direction. The median is 100 yards wide in places with a creek running through it and used to be, the few box turtles that lived in the median, eventually when they got older, would sun themselves on the shoulder of the road after a rain. Sometimes they'd try to cross the road (and never make it) sometimes they'd turn around and go back. You just never know. But one thing's for sure. In thirty years of the road being there, there aren't any around anymore and it's not because people collected them.

    If you have a different point of view go ahead and share it on this topic because we should keep an open mind on this subject! Convince me I am wrong because I wish that I was.

  2. Wesman Todd Shaw profile image81
    Wesman Todd Shawposted 12 years ago

    I didn't read all of that.  I do want to warn people that a snapping turtle in the road should be left alone.  A snapper can take off your finger - regardless of where you pick one up from.  Never touch a snapping turtle.

    1. tsadjatko profile image64
      tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this
  3. MyMastiffPuppies profile image60
    MyMastiffPuppiesposted 12 years ago

    Wow that is a lot of thought into moving a Box Turtle. I will admit the last two that we came across in the road (at different times of course) were very young.

    We have an eight year old and he of course ended up with a pet each time. They do make great pets if you do your research about how to care for them. It can be a really good learning experience for kids.

    We live in the country and it was easy to find a creek located close to where they were found and release them back into the wild.

  4. Chaotic Chica profile image60
    Chaotic Chicaposted 12 years ago

    Yeah, wow.  I suppose I know all of that from school and Discovery channel and all of that but I like to think of it in simpler terms.

    In layman's terms, leave it as you found it.  Take care of the animals that our counterparts have endangered.

    When we see a turtle crossing the road, we don't just move it to the other side, we bring it home and relocate it.  My parents have a pond that we have 'stocked' with strays!

    Our reasoning has more to do with a higher responsibility to the Earth as a whole and our location within it specifically to ensure that the natural habitat and all that was meant to be there stays in tact as best as possible. 

    I would like to suggest that if you have not done so already that you write a Hub on this topic. Clearly it is one that you not only have extensive knowledge of but you feel passionately about.  Write on!

  5. Beth100 profile image72
    Beth100posted 12 years ago

    We've come across many types of turtles, including box turtles.  We have always carefully picked them and relocated them one of our many large ponds in the country.  They have all done well, and have remained in their ponds judging from the number of baby turtles sunning themselves each spring.  smile

  6. Chaotic Chica profile image60
    Chaotic Chicaposted 12 years ago

    the only turtle we found that we did not pick up was an alligator snapping turtle! LOL  Despite the obvious reason for not touching it we found it on the dirt road heading to the woods anyway where there are plenty of ponds for it to inhabit so it wasn't a big deal to let him be.

  7. earnestshub profile image80
    earnestshubposted 12 years ago


    Cut it out and put it in a hub, this took me a lot longer to read without the formatting of a hub. smile

    Your love for the planet and the importance placed on it's inhabitants is admirable.

    1. JamaGenee profile image78
      JamaGeneeposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      My thoughts exactly...well, except for making a hub of it now since it's been published as a forum post.  I suspect doing so would make it duplicate content because the original can't be deleted as a forum post.  ????

      At any rate, tsadjatko, your original post SHOULD HAVE been a hub to begin with.  By placing it in the forums, you've denied yourself the potential AdSense earnings on it.  And yes, the formatting of a hub would have made it MUCH easier to read.

      Next time you feel so passionately about a topic, please do yourself a favor and publish it as a hub, not a forum post. smile

      1. tsadjatko profile image64
        tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Couldn't put it all in my hubs cause I've posted it other pklaces before discovering hub pages and although it's mine - you know. But my hubpage covers the basics

    2. saleheensblog profile image60
      saleheensblogposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      It's already available in yahoo answer excluding the last two paragraphs. lol http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index … 212AAxlsXT

      1. Randy Godwin profile image59
        Randy Godwinposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Whoops!  lol  Darn that google thing, you just can't plagiarize as easy as you used to!  smile

      2. tsadjatko profile image64
        tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        yeah that answers was me,

        1. saleheensblog profile image60
          saleheensblogposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          You can change the wordings and publish it. Many a times people come and post others work in the forum. Your hubber profile name also didn't match with the name showed on yahoo answer that's why I posted the link.

          1. tsadjatko profile image64
            tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

            I've tried changing wording but still got flagged and they don't tell you the specific problem - sucks when it's your own stuff from years ago.  yeah Sasquatch and Tsadjatko are both indian names for bigfoot

            1. saleheensblog profile image60
              saleheensblogposted 12 years agoin reply to this

              then completely rewrite it.

              1. tsadjatko profile image64
                tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

                Yeah I'll have to make time to do that. Just tired of messing with it for now.

              2. tsadjatko profile image64
                tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

                Done rewrote it all

  8. lorlie6 profile image74
    lorlie6posted 12 years ago

    I went to college in Birmingham, Al, and near the zoo there was a road where all sorts of turtles crossed.  Why did they cross the road? LOL  Anyhow, I was 17 and didn't care what sort of turtle they happened to be, I made it my mission to stop and escort them to safety.  Every time.  Guess I was lucky!

    1. tsadjatko profile image64
      tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Why'd the turtle cross the road? - to get to the shell station...of course!

  9. Randy Godwin profile image59
    Randy Godwinposted 12 years ago

    Obviously, we have smarter box turtles in my area than in other parts of the country.  I see them on almost a daily basis crossing the many dirt roads I travel.  And I disagree on not being able to tell which way they intend to travel.  They leave quite an easily distinguished trail indicating their intended direction.

    I've often stopped and moved many species of turtles and tortoises out of the road.  Some choose the  dirt roads to lay their eggs in.  I usually move their eggs to a safer spot after the female departs.  I know for a fact those eggs left in the road won't survive the traffic or the road scrapers.

    1. earnestshub profile image80
      earnestshubposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      First hand knowledge is hard to beat. Hopefully the fact that they leave a trail at least in certain terrain will be included in any information.
      I knew nothing about the box turtle before I saw this thread. I like learning about all animals. smile

      1. Randy Godwin profile image59
        Randy Godwinposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Wonderful little creatures, Earnest.  My aunt had one which showed up every morning for it's breakfast of bread crumbs.  Yes, first hand experience is very important, especially with all of the "experts" publishing info about everything these days.  smile

        1. Aficionada profile image80
          Aficionadaposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          But in all fairness, Randy, isn't there a legitimate distinction to be made between what can be expected on a dirt road and on a four-lane highway?

          1. Randy Godwin profile image59
            Randy Godwinposted 12 years agoin reply to this

            Certainly there is.  Coincidentally I-75 bisected part of my farm and it is a 6 lane highway with a fence which will keep the majority of all species of adult tortoises and turtles from being in any such danger.  smile

            I was speaking for my own locality and the situation I am familiar with, not saying it's the same everywhere by any means.

  10. Aficionada profile image80
    Aficionadaposted 12 years ago

    I agree this needs to be a Hub - or two - or three - or more. It's very important information that a lot of people have never considered.

    Hub 1) Traditional views on saving box turtles

    Hub 2) Life cycle and life expectancy of box turtles

    Hub 3) Problems with the traditional views on saving box turtles

    Hub 4) A better solution for saving box turtles and the box turtle population

    Hub 5) Barriers to saving box turtles created by well-intentioned but misguided laws

    (Choose better titles, though.)

    Include some great photos, videos, and perhaps a link to a box turtle refuge or herp society website.  Group these related Hubs, so that readers will be led to go on to the next one.

    But, if you don't separate out the better solution that you have proposed, find some way to highlight it - with a headline or by underlining or bold-facing a sentence or two (no more!).  Because this is so long, it would be very easy, and unfortunately likely, for your recommendation to get lost, and I'm sure that's not what you want.

    Please Hub this!

    1. tsadjatko profile image64
      tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Thamks for your advice...good advice! I already have an ebt hub up but will publish a hub just on this aspect soon. Thanks!

  11. Aficionada profile image80
    Aficionadaposted 12 years ago

    What's the time limit for editing/deleting a post?

    My memory is fuzzy about what the OP can request from staff.  Is it possible to request a deletion or truncation of a post after the editing period has expired?

  12. K9keystrokes profile image86
    K9keystrokesposted 12 years ago

    I agree that this would make for some great hubs!

    1. tsadjatko profile image64
      tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Well remember I'm only discussing Box turtles which are a terrestrial turtle, not an aquatic turtle although they do requireaccess to moist, high humid environments. My hubs already cover this ground, cept some of this information I've posted on other sites so I can't include it on my hub cause they say it is duplicated.  As far as snappers go, yes they should be moved across the road and it can be done if you follow the instructions here...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgd_B6iKPxU&feature=player_embedded

  13. profile image51
    sallyzakariposted 12 years ago

    ok is nice to love animals

  14. recommend1 profile image58
    recommend1posted 12 years ago

    Would it be tasteless to ask what they taste like ?

    only joking !!

    1. tsadjatko profile image64
      tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

      Actually no it would not be tasteless ..it would be dangerous... part of an eastern box turtle's diet is poisonous mushrooms. They are immune to the poison however it does remain in their body and if you eat a box turtle that has eaten poisonous mushrooms it can kill you. Hope that answers your question.

      1. Aficionada profile image80
        Aficionadaposted 12 years agoin reply to this

        Wow, you just keep giving us more and more information!

        I read the hub and I like it.  One thing I would suggest is that you not use so many links.  The hub could well be flagged as a result of them, because some of them are probably not related very closely to the subject.  But even if they were, a lot of readers (including me) find a lot of blue print to be distracting and detracting.

        So glad you have turned this into a Hub!

        1. tsadjatko profile image64
          tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

          Thanks - yeah I thought about that too but I noticed the more links I added the higher my hub number went and they tell you to do it. I wonder if I click on hide links if the number will go down.

          1. tsadjatko profile image64
            tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

            Ok I see that hide links doesn't hide the links I put in - I'm new at this still learning

            1. Aficionada profile image80
              Aficionadaposted 12 years agoin reply to this

              To be honest, I'm not really sure what you mean by "hide links." The only way I know of to break the links is to go back into edit mode, highlight the ones you want to lose, and then click on the symbol at the top of the box (on the right) that shows a broken chain link.

              You are correct in saying they encourage us to link, but it's one of those things that is very easy to overdo, especially when it is a new process.  Others will probably advise you somewhat differently, but in my opinion an average of one link per (long) paragraph is actually the upper limit of what I would find acceptable.  Sometimes just one or two per Hub is enough.  Since this Hub is long, it can afford to have more than two - LOL - but you do still need to be judicious with them. 

              Don't worry about the scores, either.  They fluctuate quite a bit, even in the course of a day.  I often have no idea what I have done that caused my score to rise or fall, so I am trying not to pay attention to it unless it gets really low.  So far, so good. smile

              1. tsadjatko profile image64
                tsadjatkoposted 12 years agoin reply to this

                Thanks so much for your advice - I can use the help!   turtloo!

                1. Aficionada profile image80
                  Aficionadaposted 12 years agoin reply to this

                  You're welcome!

                  lol  lol  lol  Turtloo to you too!!! lol  lol  lol


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