Be careful when braking for turtles

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Most Mississippians brake for turtles, but there are times when the practice can put motorists at risk.

Soon, we will start seeing more of these shelled reptiles as the season brings warmer temperatures.

Several of these animals may decide to not just cross the street, but stop on a warm patch of asphalt increase their body temperature.

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But that stop for warmth puts them at risk of being hit by a moving vehicle.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, being struck by a vehicle is the number one cause of death for gopher tortoises, which are a protected species in Mississippi.

Many residents of the state don’t need statistics to tell them that a turtle in the road is in danger. That fact may prompt some well-intentioned people to stop their vehicle to provide a bit of aid.

Before you consider stopping your vehicle on a busy highway to relocate a sunning turtle, think of your own safety first.

First, find a safe place to park your vehicle, preferably far from the path of traffic.

Also, be sure no one is tailgating your vehicle before you try to come to a stop abruptly. An inattentive driver would not have the stopping distance to avoid an accident if you stop suddenly.

If you feel that a turtle can be relocated safely, move it to the side of the road in the direction in which it was traveling.

Otherwise the animal will be inclined to put itself back in harm’s way as it continues to reach the intended destination.

Turtles sunning themselves along busy highways and interstates may be best left alone, since moving it would put you, and it, in harm’s way. Lastly, resist the urge to keep it as a pet. Wild turtles, like all wild animals, are adapted to life in nature. Bringing a wild animal into your home could shorten its lifespan.