Each spring, with the help of the artistic talent commissioned from Georgetown Central School, the Conservation Commission posts “Turtle Crossing” signs at important turtle travel corridors around town.
Georgetown has a number of wetlands that are important for several species of turtle: snappers, painted and spotted (a threatened species). Turtles mostly spend the winter at the bottom of bodies of water. Beginning in May, turtles emerge to bask, forage, and, if they’re females of reproductive age (7 to 18 years old, for Maine species), travel to lay their eggs in more upland areas. As a result, they often have to cross roads to get where they are going, or to get back to the pond or wetland, as do their offspring when they hatch. If you see a turtle digging in sandy soil, it is most likely preparing to lay or covering up its eggs.
The turtle crossing signs serve to alert Georgetown residents and visitors to slow down and watch for turtles from May to October in these annual migration areas. Roadkill is a significant factor in declining turtle populations.
Turtles are slow, but they don’t appreciate being helped along. Turtles return to the same areas their whole lives, and will become disoriented in their direction if moved or rotated. If you feel compelled to get a turtle out of the middle of a road, pick it up by the sides of its shell and move it smoothly in a straight line towards where it is headed just far enough to get it out of harm’s way. A turtle which is relocated will search endlessly for its ancestral habitat and will not survive.
Stay a safe distance from snapping turtles in particular.
Here’s a joke from a turtle forum (but take it seriously…):
How To Age Snapping Turtles: Start with prodding the turtle with your little finger. If you find he can snap it off easily he is at least 3; ring finger about 5, middle finger 8, pointer finger 12, thumb over 20.