MONTPELIER — The state is asking people to watch out for turtles crossing the road, and to report sightings of the animals to the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas.

The Vt. Fish & Wildlife Department stated Monday that it’s now the time of year when female turtles are on the move in search of places to lay their eggs. Many will cross roads to do this, and some will want to lay their eggs on the shoulders of the roadways, upping their risk of being hit by a vehicle.

“Turtles often go across roads as they search for a nest site,” stated Luke Groff, a biologist with Fish & Wildlife. “They are slow-moving animals, so they have a tough time making it safely across the road. Turtles grow slowly and live a long time, so losing a mature breeding female is a huge loss to the turtle population.”

The department stated that it is working with the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas and the state Agency of Transportation to gather data on where turtles are often sighted so that they might be protected when it comes time to upgrade or alter those roadways.

Turtle sightings can be sent to Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas at vtherpatlas.org or to Jim Andrews, head of the Atlas project, at jandrews@vtherpatlas.com.

“Sending in a report is quick and easy,” stated Andrews in a release. “Just snap a photo or two of the turtle, and submit your observation via the website or email. We’re constantly impressed with Vermonters’ commitment to conservation and willingness to help save turtles.”

Andrews stated that turtles can be helped across the road by people.

“First be sure you’re in a safe spot to stop and get out of your car, as human safety comes first,” stated Andrews. “If you’re going to move a turtle off the road, always move it in the direction it was traveling. They know where they’re going.”

Turtles can generally be picked up and moved by hand, but if it has no colorful markings it’s likely a snapping turtle and should not be handled. Andrews stated that the best way to move a snapping turtle is with a long stick or a shovel.

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