One of the local residents

The mud turtle who lives in the swamp below my house was out for a stroll earlier this afternoon, reminding me it’s that time of year again when turtles are on the move. The females climb out of their waters and head for a sandy, sunny spot to lay their eggs. Often they have to cross a road or other wide open spaces to get there, exposing them to predators and other dangers, most notably vehicles.

People often see turtles stranded out in the middle of a road and stop to help. That’s okay with some cautions. You should wear gloves – they may carry salmonella. Also, move them in the direction they were going. Don’t always assume they were heading for water.

If it’s a snapping turtle, don’t handle it at all. Use a shovel or large limb to prod it along. They’re ill-tempered and have a quick, hard bite that and sever a finger or toe.

Years ago there was an elderly gentleman in my neighborhood who offered to pay me a dollar a turtle if I would bring some back for him, and 50 cents for every big frog (keep in mind this was in the early sixties). When I asked him what he wanted them for, he said turtle soup was a delicacy, and so were frog legs. I didn’t have the stomach to do business with him.

Today, most Massachusetts turtles are protected, though a few of the most common species aren’t.

This is a great time to get out and look for turtles, watch them for awhile. If you’re lucky enough to see where they lay their eggs, mark it and come back to check if they’ve hatched in the fall, usually in September. But whatever you do, please don’t eat the turtles.

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