How You Can Help

Turtles are in serious trouble! Hundreds of species are in need of conservation if they are to survive. Turtles are also subjected to many acts of abuse. The following is a list of simple, yet effective actions that people can take to help contribute to the conservation of turtles!

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Individual Efforts

  • Legions of turtles die on the roads every year when they are run over. If you do see a turtle on the road, stop and help move it across in the direction its going. For larger turtles, move them by grasping the very back of the shell with two hands. Never pick up a turtle by its tail. This can seriously injure or even kill the turtle. Click here to watch an educational video on how to safely and properly move snapping turtles (and other large turtles) off of roads.
  • If you see any turtle products or products that contain parts of turtles in them (turtle meat, etc.) do not buy them. Even if individuals try to justify that they didn't kill the animal, they are supporting the demand and another turtle will have to be killed to replace the purchased item. If people encounter stores that are selling these products they can further help by writing in and letting these businesses know that they will not support any stores that attempt to profit from such cruelty. Refusing to shop at stores that offer turtle products is also helpful.
  • Similarly, do not support restaurants that serve turtle soup, turtle eggs or turtle meat. Do not use and encourage others not to use rat-poisons, chemical pesticides,  herbicides, fungicides, and other similar chemicals around your home. These chemicals often wash off into nearby wetlands and other natural areas, which can harm turtles and their prey.
  • Do not use erosion netting or similar netting such as nylon netting, plastic bird netting, or things like chicken wire, glue traps, or garden traps. Turtles often end up trapped, seriously injured or even killed as a result of being entangled inside these materials.
  • Do not catch turtles from the wild for pets. Not only is this illegal in many places, but taking turtles from the wild can seriously harm the natural populations. If you really love these animals you will leave them in the wild where they belong!
  • If individuals own captive turtles and no longer want them, they are strongly encouraged not to release them into the wild. Releasing exotic pets into the wild can seriously upset the natural balance of the Eco-system. People can donate unwanted turtles to reptile sanctuaries.
  • When out in natural areas that turtles frequent, be respectful. Keep an eye out for turtles on paths when biking or on ATV's as to not run them over. It would be preferred if people did not bike or ATV at all in lush natural areas that are home to turtles, but instead hike. It is also important to stay on designated paths to avoid damaging natural habitat. Keep an eye out for basking turtles on these paths to avoid disturbing them.
  • When boating be sure to stay out of areas of lush vegetation and aquatic plant matter. These areas are important forms of turtle habitat. Do not boat over floating mounds of vegetation. These act as important shelters for baby turtles. Avoid boating in shallow, swampy, or marshy areas. Restrict the usage of motors when ever possible and instead paddle. Propellers can seriously injure or kill turtles. Oil left behind from motors can kill small turtles.
  • Never anchor in areas thick with vegetation, marshy areas, coral reefs or seagrass beds. Never remove these features from any body of water (fresh or salt water).
  • Boaters and fishermen can help turtles by frequently checking fishing nets and lines to ensure that no turtles have been accidentally caught or trapped. Turtles are often snagged or trapped on fishing lines when they attempt to swallow baited hooks. For this reason, people should not fish in areas that are dense with turtles. Pliers should also be on hand to help remove hooks from turtles that are accidentally caught.
  • All turtles (including pond and sea turtles) must come to the surface to breathe air. When boating, keep an eye out for turtles. Watch to make sure they are not hit and killed by vessels, sail boats, and personal recreational crafts.
  • When you mow your lawn/field be mindful to do this after 12 noon. Many turtles will bask in the early part of the day and an open lawn exposed to the sun may be an ideal place for them to do this. Mowing your lawn/field after 12 noon will help decrease the chance of killing any turtles. Before mowing or weed-whacking walk through the grass, stirring the vegetation to persuade any hiding turtles to move out of harm's way. Further help by contacting your town or city about their public/park mowing schedules. The peak activity season for turtles is generally May-September. Restrict mowing activities during this time. If that's not possible, raise the mower blade to a height of 7 inches to avoid cutting turtles.
  • If you encounter a turtle in the wild (whether in land or water) admire it by observation only and keep your distance. Female turtles that are nesting, or on their way to nesting sites, will abandon such activities if they are disturbed. The possibility of becoming egg-bound is also a threat. If you find a turtle do not attempt to pick it up, handle it, capture it, or relocate it. Do not flash lights on turtles. Do not attempt to ride large turtles. Do not mark turtles by carving into the shell. Turtles can feel pain, and they can feel pain when the shell is cut or injured. Similarly, do not mark turtles with paints or dyes. Do not interfere with turtles in any other ways. An exception to this is moving turtles off of roads in the direction they are headed.
  • Do not release helium balloons at parties or events. These often end up in waters where turtles may mistake them for food. Ingesting plastic can seriously harm or kill a turtle.
  • Refuse to use beaches that are known nesting sites for turtles. Remember, all beaches have the potential to be used by turtles, so if visiting any beach/waterfront habitat be respectful to the natural environment.
  • Never leave behind plastic waste, garbage, or discarded fishing lines when visiting a beach, lake, waterfront, or wetland. These materials are hazardous. Further help by cleaning up waste found on beaches/waterfronts. Make sure that garbage, bags, plastics, and cigarette butts never end up in the water/seas. Turtles will mistake plastic bags for food. If discarded cigarettes are ingested they will swell in the stomach.
  • If at the beach or other waterfront area that has sandy substrate, be sure to knock down any sand castles and fill in any holes. These can act as barriers that prevent hatchling turtles from reaching the water. Both freshwater and marine turtles use beaches for nesting sites.
  • Do not stake beach umbrellas into the sand when visiting beaches, these can destroy turtle nests that are buried under the surface.
  • If you live on a waterfront property be sure to turn out or block out all lights at night to ensure the beach/waterfront remains dark. Hatchling turtles are drawn to the bright moonlight on the horizon. This leads them to the safety of the water. Bright lights from waterfront buildings can lead turtles away from the water and into dangerous urban settings. If you cannot block out bright lights, you can purchase turtle friendly lighting here.
  • Do not support hotels, resorts, or other waterfront establishments that have destroyed turtle nesting beaches or basking habitats.
  • Do not construct camp fires on beaches or waterfronts. These can attract juvenile turtles.
  • Do not drive on sandy beaches or waterfront habitats. Turtle nests and hatchlings can be crushed and killed by vehicles.
  • Do not leave out lounge chairs, sailboats, and other obstructions on beaches or waterfronts at night. These create unnatural obstacles for turtles that may be trying to reach nesting spots, or hatchlings trying to make it to the water.
  • Properly dispose of your garbage and recycle. Turtles may become entangled in bags, twine, discarded netting and fishing lines. Similarly, buy reusable shopping bags. This will cut down on the consumption of plastic bags.
  • Many people go out of their way to kill snapping turtles due to fear and a lack of understanding. One of the best things we can do for turtles is to send out positive messages about them to our friends, families, and neighbors. Let these people know that snapping turtles will not attack swimmers and they are not detrimental to fish or waterfowl populations.
  • Many camp grounds and summer resorts host ''turtle racing'' events. Turtles are captured from the wild for these events and then forced into unnatural and stressful settings. Many turtles are marked with paints and dyes before the race. Afterwards the turtles may be kept as pets. As these events are stressful and cruel to turtles do not participate in them or support them in anyway.
  • Keep others informed! Let others know about the threats turtles are facing and what we can do to help! Share this website on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter! Write in to your local newspapers and elected officials to voice your concerns for turtles. Let them know about the threats that turtles face and what we can do to help!
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HABITAT MANAGEMENT & STEWARDSHIP ACTIVITIES

Habitat loss is one of the most significant threats that turtles face. This makes the practices of landowners a powerful conservation tool. The following is a list of stewardship activities that will help enrich the land and create suitable habitats for turtles.

  • Landowners are encouraged to leave as much of their property as natural and as undisturbed as possible. Let areas grow thick with grass and natural vegetation. Do not strip away or cut down trees, stumps, vegetation and other natural features. Do not drain wetlands or bodies of water. If these features have been previously removed an effort should be made to restore them and return the landscape to its natural setting to reverse any human-induced degradation. The reintroduction of natural and native plants should also take place. Care should be made to restrict vehicular traffic, livestock, and recreation in the natural portions of the property that act as important areas for turtles. This is especially important in and around wetlands, ponds, and other aquatic habitats.
  • If you own land with marshes, swamps, or other bodies of water do not rake or remove the natural vegetation that occurs in the water such as seaweed, water plants, lily pads, etc. Such features provide cover for both turtles and their prey items. Leave fallen debris such as tree stumps, logs, and large rocks in streams, rivers, ponds, and all other wetlands. These can act as important basking areas for turtles. If wetlands on the property lack basking areas you can create your own. Put fallen logs, stumps, or old wooden planks just off the shore.
  • Do not remove the natural vegetation from around shorelines. Leaving buffers of natural vegetation and grasses around wetlands and the surrounding terrestrial regions is extremely important. Leave these areas thick with vegetation. Buffers of tall grass, trees, saplings, shrubs, ferns, and other natural plants offer cover for turtles and help protect water quality by reducing erosion and chemical runoff. Leave an unmown buffer at the edges of hay fields, pastures, and lawns. Buffers of 500 meters are preferred.
  • Do not alter the water levels in wetlands or bodies of water (whether seasonal or permanent) in any way. Leave the natural water levels and let natural fluctuations occur. This means allowing natural flooding/draining to happen.
  • Do not release any non-native plants or animals of any kind. Non-native species can have devastating affects on the natural eco-systems. Furthermore if exotics are present (either plant or animal) eliminate their presence.
  • Do not stock fish in ponds/wetlands. Let natural populations occur. Stocking can create a surplus of predators for vulnerable small turtles. Leave the natural assemblage of animals in the wetland.
  • Make sure all septic tanks and pipelines are not leaking into wetlands.
  • Beaver ponds are a important type of wetland. Turtles will use these as basking and foraging sites. Do not drain beaver ponds! Do not fill in the natural pools, ponds, or wetlands even when dry. Do not dig into the bottom of the pool, even when it is dry as this will disturb the non-permeable layer of soil that allows the pool to flood.
  • Do not alter riverbanks or sandbars. Do not strip away the natural vegetation from these areas. Similarly, do not subject sandbars or riverbanks to recreation. This includes keeping livestock and recreational vehicles off them. Other activities such as docking boats and camping should be avoided in these areas. Repeated use will degrade these sensitive habitats. Let  vegetation grow unrestricted on beaches, river banks, and sand dunes. These help to stop shoreline erosion. They also provide natural shelter for nests and hatchlings.
  • Allow a buffer of tall grass and natural vegetation to grow between the road and the property. This will help reduce chemical runoff from roads which can damage and degrade turtle habitats. A buffer of 50 feet is preferred.
  • It is important to leave natural areas in-between wetlands, forests, meadows, ravines, and other green spaces where ever possible. This will provide natural corridors in which the turtles can travel in between habitats. If various habitats do exist, but have already been fragmented or cut off from each other, efforts should be made to increase natural (and native) forms of vegetation and cover to form corridors. Do not fragment areas of woods or meadows into smaller cut-off sections by clear-cutting, or stripping away thick areas of vegetation. Leave areas like grasslands and meadows lush.
  • Reduce food waste and control its storage. Garbage, composts, pet food, and bird seed may attract raccoons, skunks, and other predators that may prey on turtles and their nests. Store garbage, composts, recycling, and other food sources indoors or in containers that cannot be opened by animals. Avoid feeding pets outside. Place bird feeders so they are inaccessible to raccoons and skunks and keep areas underneath bird feeders clean. Never feed raccoons or skunks. These are devastating turtle predators. You can further help to minimize the populations of these predators by reducing their food supply. Inform the city about dumpsters that are not kept closed.
  • Keep dogs on a leash or under your control and keep cats inside. Pets that wander can be devastating predators to turtles. Even if they do not directly injure the turtles, they do disrupt natural hunting and basking activities.
  • Do not relocate or move turtles that are encountered on the property.
  • If you know where a turtle nest is, you can help protect it from predators by sprinkling cayenne pepper over the surface of the nest. When predators attempt to dig-up the eggs the pepper irritates and deters them. Click here to learn how you can help build predator barriers to protect turtle nests.