ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On World Turtle Day, which happens to be Tuesday, the Department of Environmental Conservation is asking drivers to “give turtles a brake,” as thousands of turtles are killed each year by unsuspecting drivers. Turtles nest in May and June, and drivers may be unaware of turtles on the road seeking new nesting areas.

If you find an injured turtle, the DEC says a licensed wildlife rehabilitator may be able to assist. The DEC also reminds people not to take turtles home, as all native turtles are protected by law and cannot be kept without a DEC permit.

If drivers are able, they are encouraged to slow down to avoid hitting turtles, and if they can, safely move the turtle to the shoulder on the side of the road in the direction it was facing. Drivers are also advised to not pick up turtles by their tails, but safely by the sides of their shells.

If you come across a snapping turtle, pick it up by the rear of its shell using both hands, as they have a strong bite with necks that can reach far back. When it comes to sea turtles, anyone who sees one on the beach should not put it back in the water, and instead, call the New York State 24-hour stranding hotline at (631) 369-9829.

Most of the 11 species of land titles that are native to New York are in decline. To help turtles and other wildlife, New Yorkers are encouraged to:

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle, and rethink: these are simple steps to help protect all wildlife
  • Don’t litter: unwanted trash makes its way just about everywhere, including into our creeks, lakes, rivers, and the ocean
  • Don’t release balloons or lanterns: releasing balloons into the environment is potentially fatal for different wildlife, including sea turtles that commonly mistake balloons and plastic bags for prey items like jellyfish
  • Volunteer for beach and park clean-ups
  • Stay informed and share your knowledge with others

“While a turtle’s shell provides protection from predators, it does not protect against being struck by vehicles while crossing roadways,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “Vehicle strikes are a major cause of mortality among turtles and New York’s native turtles are more susceptible at this time of year as they seek sandy areas or loose soil in which to lay their eggs. Especially in these coming weeks, DEC urges drivers to be on the lookout for turtles and slow down, particularly on roads near rivers and marshy areas.”