Spring is here once again, and when things start to return to a sense of normalcy, you may find yourself driving more.

Similarly, many creatures are also starting to travel in the spring. Among these are the turtles that are frequently seen on the road this time of year.

Turtles are at risk on roads for many reasons.

  1. They are slow moving.
  2. Their reflex when in danger is to hide in their shell.
  3. They have a bad habit of nesting on unpaved road shoulders, putting expectant mothers and hatchlings at risk.
  4. They move from one wetland to another over the season. In fact, one Blanding’s Turtle can make use of half a dozen different wetlands over the spring and summer.

Overall, road mortality is a major factor in declining freshwater turtle populations.

One of the Most Endangered Groups of Animals in Canada

How to safely carry a turtle across the road.

Turtles are of particular concern to us here at the Canadian Wildlife Federation since all eight species in Canada are listed as species at risk. This makes them one of the most endangered groups of animals in Canada. Part of this is because turtles do not handle many new threats brought on by human interactions very well. After all, this group of animals has remained relatively unchanged from the time of the dinosaurs.

We can all do our part to help the turtles.

  1. Please slow down around wetlands!
  2. If it is safe to do so, help any turtles you find on the road. Pull completely off the road onto the road shoulder and put on your vehicle’s four-way flashers. Do not enter the roadway if it is not safe to do so.

How to (Safely) Move a Turtle on the Road

Most species in Ontario are quite easy to handle by holding the sides, using both hands, a bit like holding a hamburger, although we recommend a firm grip to avoid dropping it. Be aware that the turtle may pee on you!

Snappers are Special

Snapping Turtles are harder to move, so if you are unfamiliar with the process, we strongly recommend checking out our video for more detailed instructions for both your own safety and the turtle’s.


There are also hands-free ways to move a Snapping Turtle, including moving it with a shovel, or tossing a blanket or coat over the turtle and dragging it off the road. While a turtle might get scratched if it is dragged off the road that is better than being killed by a car. Always move the turtle off the road in the direction is heading.

Snapping Turtle about to move onto a busy road (this turtle was rescued).

We also encourage you to submit any turtle sightings to iNaturalist.ca, a citizen science platform and in particular two projects: Help the Turtles and Canadian Amphibians and Reptiles on Roads.

Many turtles found crossing the road are females looking for places to lay their eggs. Pulling over for a turtle may be a small act, but taking a few extra minutes to help a turtle safely reach the other side of the road will very likely save its life and may help future generations.

Learn more about how you can Help the Turtles and other Endangered Species in Canada.