Keep an eye out for turtles

Turtles are in search of places to lay eggs and you can help keep them safe.

MADISON - As female turtles start leaving the water in search of sand or gravel uplands to lay their eggs, Wisconsin conservation biologists are asking people to report where the turtles cross the road and to help protect nests that turtles may build on residential lawns, gardens or gravel driveways.

"Turtles will soon be moving around to lay their eggs in upland areas, and we need your help to make sure as many of them survive as possible and that their eggs do too," said Andrew Badje, who coordinates the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program for the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

"Turtles killed crossing roads and predators eating their eggs are big problems that can endanger turtle populations in Wisconsin. So DNR is once again asking people to report turtle crossing hotspots, and asking people to consider protecting nests on their land with a homemade nest cage," he said.

Turtle crossing hotspots. Photo credit: DNR

People can report turtle crossings by searching online for DNR's Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program website. [exit DNR]

Since DNR started asking for citizens to report deadly road crossings for turtles in 2012, conservation biologists have documented 1,959 turtle crossing locations. Of those, 42 crossings are particularly deadly for turtles, resulting in high levels of mortality that could eventually lead to population collapse if left unchecked. Some species of turtles, like the wood turtle, take 12 to 20 years to reach reproductive maturity, so the death of even a few turtles in a population can take a big toll, Badje said.

"We very much appreciate receiving these citizen reports because they give conservation biologists a great statewide picture of problem crossings," he said. "People live in every corner of Wisconsin and are particularly aware of the turtle crossings in their neighborhoods."

Such data are critical for DNR staff to have when working with local and state highway departments in Wisconsin, Badje said. Citizen reports, for example, allowed DNR to work with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to build a wildlife underpass when State Highway 66 just northeast of Stevens Point was reconstructed.