Authorities urge drivers to watch out for turtles crossing the road

There may not be signs indicating the passage of reptiles, but the turtles will be more visible as the weather warms.

Missouri Department of Conservation officials are urging the public to be careful on the roads this spring and “hold back the turtles,” the department said in a press release.

“These reptiles are often struck by cars during the warmer months, but are particularly at this time of year because they are more active,” according to a press release.

Turtles spotted crossing Missouri roads are three-toed box turtles, ornate box turtles, and snapping turtles. Most Missouri turtles can live up to 30 years, but the common box turtle can live up to 80 years, sometimes living for more than a century, according to MDC.

“Turtles emerge from their burrows and start hunting for food and mates in hot, humid weather, which can lead them to cross roads, often resulting in their deaths,” MDC said.

These shelled reptiles are cold blooded creatures and depend on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature, which is why people can see them on hot asphalt during cooler days.

Thousands of box turtles are killed by vehicles each year, according to MDC. Young men make up most explorers and can travel up to six miles in search of territory and mates. Females also cross roads in search of nesting areas.

“Vehicles are a major factor in the decline of box turtles, and MDC urges motorists to be careful and slow down when they see a turtle on the road,” the statement said. “If you are helping a turtle cross safely, check traffic and move the turtle on the road in the direction it is moving.”

Missourians should leave turtles in the wild.

“Taking a wild animal, whether it’s a turtle or other wildlife and keeping it as a pet normally ends in slow death,” MDC warned. “Leave the turtles in the wild, follow the speed limit and keep your eyes on the road.”

For more information on Missouri turtles, visit the MDC’s online field guide at

Sara Karnes is an outdoor reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow his adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Sara_Karnes. Got a story to tell? Email him at [email protected]

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