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Read This Before You Help That Turtle Cross the Road

A turtle crossing the road in front of a red car.
Elena_Krasnodar/Shutterstock

Unlike speedy squirrels and sprinting rabbits, turtles aren’t exactly built to hurry across a hot road. Here’s how you can help them across the road without causing more trouble for them.

Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

We may never know exactly why the chicken crossed the road, but the reason for turtles making that trek is a wee bit clearer. Male turtles travel around looking for female turtles to mate with. Female turtles leave to find safe places to build nests. They both have places to be, and our roads just happen to be in their way.

Some turtles travel from pond to pond. Plus, spring and early summer aren’t the only times you’ll find turtles crossing the road—baby turtles have to head to a water source after they hatch and dig themselves up out of the ground (which happens later in summer).

How to Safely Help a Turtle Avoid Getting Run Over

No matter the reason for the turtle in the road, there are ways you can help them make it across safely—but you need to think about your safety, too. Here’s what to do:

  • Turn your hazard lights on when pulling off the road—You don’t want to cause an accident, so don’t block traffic. Watch for vehicles when you get out of your car, and don’t step out into the road when someone is driving your way. (The turtle’s life is not worth your own.)
  • Pick the turtle up—Time is essential, so it’s best to pick the turtle up and get them to the other side of the road. Do this by grasping them on both sides of the shell, in front of their back legs. (Don’t get too close to their head, or you’ll get bit—especially if it’s a snapping turtle.)
  • Get the turtle to the other side of the road—Be sure you’re heading the turtle in the direction that it was already going. It knows where it wants to go! If you turn it around, it’s likely to end up right back in the middle of the road in no time.
  • Wash your hands—If you have hand sanitizer in the car or any kind of wipes, use those immediately or wash your hands as soon as you can. Turtles might be cute in their own way, but the illnesses we can get from the bacteria on their body certainly aren’t.

What to Do if the Turtle Is Injured

If you pull over and find an injured turtle, don’t leave them there to die slowly. Turtles are pretty hardy creatures, but once they are seriously injured that can work against them, leaving them to linger on for days or weeks.

There’s always a chance they can be rehabilitated, or a veterinary clinic or wildlife center will be able to euthanize them, so they don’t have to continue to suffer.

When taking a turtle into a rehab center or clinic, make note of where you found the turtle with as much detail as possible. If the turtle is rehabilitated and will be released to the wild again, the closer it is to spot it was found, the better—which leads us to what not to do when you find a turtle on the road.

What Not to Do

Most turtle species have surprisingly small territories and while it might seem like a good idea to take the turtle a good distance from the road or even to a park, that can be a death sentence for the turtle. Just help the turtle to cross the road it’s already on.

Never take a wild turtle home with you. If you want a pet turtle, visit a pet shop. Some turtles are protected or endangered and illegal to keep as pets.


Not only does a turtle in the road pose a risk to the animal itself, but large turtles can easily cause an accident. Help out the animals and other drivers by showing your love for wildlife.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »

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