Spring turtle alert!

Photo courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Photo courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

Watch for turtles, which are on the move at this time of year and too often become road kill.

The Missouri Department of Conservation also advises people not to capture turtles as pets.

Their nutritional needs are hard to meet and most taken as pets die of slow starvation, experts say.

If you do take one, keep it only a day or two and release it where you captured it, says Jeff Briggler, state herpetologist.

The turtle in our area is the three-toed box turtle, and hundreds of them are dying on roads.

“…they are at special risk this time of year, when they are moving around looking for mates and establishing home ranges,” Briggler said in a press release.

“Young males are most at risk. Comfort is a factor, too (for the cold blooded animals),” he said. “Walking out onto warm asphalt and basking in the morning sun feels good on cool spring days.”

Box turtles can live long and females can continue producing eggs past age 60, but snakes, raccoons, opossums and other predators eat most of the eggs.

Experts don’t know how so many road deaths will affect the turtle long-term survival, Briggler said, but “Animals with low reproductive potential usually cannot sustain the sort of continuing mortality that we see on our roads.”

He suggests drivers slow down when they see a turtle in the road and make sure they can safely steer around it.

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