Maryland's Wild Turtles Are On The Move
Eastern box turtles are among those commonly found crossing – or sitting on – Maryland’s roads. Photo by Ranger Elena Gilroy/Maryland Department of Natura Resources.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Wild turtles are currently heading to their breeding and nesting sites throughout Maryland. During this time of year, wild turtles can often be seen crossing roads and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources urges drivers to be cautious and give turtles a “brake.”

Common turtles found on the road include eastern box turtles, snapping turtles, painted turtles, and red-eared sliders. In coastal areas, diamondback terrapins — Maryland’s state reptile — can also be common on roadways.

If a passerby wants to help a turtle cross the road, they should check for traffic and move the turtle in the direction it was traveling, until it is safely out of vehicle lanes. The turtle should never be returned to the side it started from or taken far away from where it is found. Turtles have specific home ranges and moving them too far away can cause more harm than good. All Maryland turtle species lay their eggs on land, so moving a gravid — or pregnant — female to water can impact her ability to lay eggs.

Help Turtles Cross the Road, But Keep them Wild

Handling turtles should be done with caution. Extra care should be taken with snapping turtles, which can inflict a serious bite. The animal should only be picked up gently at the back of the shell using two hands, with your thumbs on the top of the turtle’s shell and other fingers supporting the underside of the shell. Handle the turtle only as long as needed to get it to safety.

While it may be tempting to take a wild turtle home, it is important for both the well-being of wildlife and people to keep wildlife wild. Like all animals in the wild, turtles can carry diseases and parasites. Turtles also can live a long time and often need specialized care. They also need large areas to roam, something that cannot be provided in captivity.

To protect turtles, the law prohibits the removal of some species from the wild. It is also illegal to possess any turtle under four-inches in length. Reptiles that have been bred in captivity, or which are not native to Maryland, may not be released into the wild.

Releasing captive and nonnative turtles may spread disease and parasites to the wild population. Only individual animals that were taken from the wild may be released back into the wild, and only if:

-They have not been held in captivity with any other reptile or amphibian;

-They have not been in captivity for more than 30 days; or

-Written authorization is given by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

People who are interested in keeping a turtle as a pet can obtain more information from the Mid-Atlantic Turtle and Tortoise Society, which provides opportunities to adopt turtles and tortoises that cannot be released into the wild

More information about permits for captive reptiles and conditions for release into the wild, as well as species lists, is available online.

Join the Conversation

29 Comments

  1. Now that was just RUDE, I bet you are the type of person that swerved just to purposely hit it.

    1. If you reruns think stopping for a turtle that’s in the middle of the road is a good idea you obviously don’t think about much do you?
      Stopping on any roadway in southern Maryland is very dangerous, let’s stop in the road only to get plowed into by someone speeding and texting, yep that’s absolutely intelligent

      1. Would you please point out the comment that suggested stopping in the middle of the roadway was prudent?

          1. Thank you for confirming none of the commenters said anything about stopping in the middle of the road. Now, why don’t YOU do read the third paragraph of the article and copy/paste the portion that talks about stopping in the middle of the road. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

        1. And yes they are mad because nobody stopped in the middle of the road to move a turtle vs running it over, take your bs and troll somewhere else

          Why don’t you explain to these people that now you have sympathy for turtles but have zero sympathy for the children in Texas, go on, tell them, if not I’m sure they will see your comments, my next course of action on that is to contact 98.3 on the tbone and heather show and announce your words all over southern Maryland, would you like that troll? So go on explain to everyone how much of a yellow coward you are or I most certainly will and there’s nothing you’re going to do about it

          1. You sure do cherry pick your words. You really should try reading whole sentences and paragraphs to get the meaning that was actually intended.

      2. I was taught how to cross the road safely. Your mom failed in every way possible to prepare you for life outside the bordello.

          1. You really should look that word “irrelevant” up in the dictionary one day. You wouldn’t sound less consistently stupid if you would use it correctly.

  2. My dog was just caught eating one of these turtles….can he get Salmonella or anything like that from the turtle? Poor turtle, it was way to far gone when we discovered it. 🙁

  3. To leave a comment like that you’re very evil but just remember God don’t like ugly and Karma will get you for hurting that turtle and then may you rest in hell

  4. To leave a comment like this you are a very evil person about running over a turtle but don’t you forget God does not like ugly Karma will get you so I hope then you can rest at 7734

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