While driving to Otter Lake on an early rainy morning this past Saturday to help out with the Stanley Sportsman’s Club Annual Benefit Fishing Contest, I observed four snap ping turtles, three of which were nesting along the gravel roadside.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking the public to give turtle mothers and the next generation of turtles a helping hand by following a few easy actions throughout the turtle nesting season.
This time of year turtles are beginning to emerge from rivers, lakes and wetlands to lay eggs. All of Wisconsin’s turtles nest every year in late spring through early summer (nesting can begin as early as May 20 and often extends through July 7). Turtle nests may be found in a variety of locations where sandy and/or well-drained soil is exposed to sun for most of the day, including sand banks along rivers and lakes, gardens, gravel driveways and road shoulders. Some turtle species nest within a few feet of open water, while others travel up to 1,000 feet or more away from open water to nest.
Depending on the species and weather conditions, turtles may begin to hatch in as little as two months, although three-four months is more common. Some species, such as the painted turtle, may over-winter in their nests and not emerge until the following spring. After a successful hatch, there is often a small hole where the hatchlings emerge from the nest.
Many female turtles are run over by vehicles during their annual nesting migrations, a leading cause of turtle decline throughout Wisconsin. Turtle nests also experience high levels of predation as populations of nest-raiding animals such as raccoons, skunks and coyotes have grown beyond historical levels.
“The nesting season is a really tough time to be a turtle mother. Many are removed from the population by car collisions on roads while some protected species are illegally taken from the wild and sold in the illegal pet trade”, said Andrew Badje, DNR Conservation Biologist. “Protecting adult females and turtle nests in the wild are the best ways to conserve turtle populations in Wisconsin.”
Wisconsin’s protected turtle species face additional challenges. Wood turtles and Blan- ding’s turtles cannot reproduce until they reach 12 to 20 years and Ornate Box turtles tend to produce very few eggs each year. Therefore, the removal or death of even one female turtle per year can lead to population declines or the elimination of local populations.
A number of people often question, Are turtles good for anything? Most of all, turtles are great scavengers, the garbage patrol of an area, eating up dead fish from lakes and rivers. They do no harm and they do a lot of good for the environment.
The DNR encourages people to consider following these protective actions from now until the end of July.
• Drive with caution on roads that are near wetlands, lakes and rivers. Slow down, be alert and reduce distractions.
• Help protect Wisconsin native turtles by keeping wild turtles in the wild.
• Build a nest cage to protect turtle eggs and hatchlings if turtles are nesting on your property. Check out the DNR website for step-bystep video instructions on how to build a nest cage that keeps predators out and allows hatchings to exit on their own.
• Report turtle observations, road crossing and nest sites, using the Turtle Reporting Form from the DNR Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program website. DNR conservation biologists use these survey reports to manage and conserve turtles more euectively. Report a Turtle Sighting: https://survey123.arcgis.com/ share/c442cb3u48742f29df172587cec5d4a
• Report suspicious illegal activity associated with turtles to the DNR’s Violation Hotline by calling or texting 1-800-847-9367.