SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – May 23 is World Turtle Day, and you may be wondering: What can you do to help the turtles in your area? Here are five ways you can make your life more turtle-friendly.
Be careful when moving turtles across the road
When you’re driving and you see a turtle crossing the road, you should consider several things. This is according to a blog post from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The first thing you should consider is if the turtle needs your help at all. Can the turtle cross the road safely without your assistance? If it can’t, you can carefully proceed to move the turtle across the road in the direction that it was heading.
According to the Georgia DNR, you’ll want to make sure you never move the turtle away from its environment. The agency also recommends you wash your hands after moving it.
Avoid the use of plastic bags and straws
While there are plenty of good reasons to use single-use plastics, it can also be beneficial to the environment and the turtle population to avoid them when possible. According to a 2014 study, sea turtles tend to gravitate toward eating debris that resembles jellyfish. This includes debris like plastic grocery bags, which are often used once before being discarded entirely.
Though they will not work for everyone, some alternatives are available for those who don’t rely on single-use plastics for accessibility purposes. These alternatives include silicone or metal straws and reusable grocery bags.
Take care of holes and sandcastles before leaving the beach
Did you know that things like holes and sandcastles can become obstacles for sea turtles that are attempting to nest on the beach? Not only that, but they can also become issues for hatchlings who are making the perilous journey to the water once they leave the nest.
So how can you help? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, you can aid sea turtles in their journeys by knocking down your sandcastles and filling in any holes you’ve made before leaving the beach. It may seem like something small, but it’s a big deal to the turtles.
Be careful when mowing your lawn
Box Turtles are known to hide away in tall vegetation, especially during the summer when the days are hot. When you mow your lawn, you can potentially end up harming one of the small turtles in the process. So how do you help?
Some recommendations from advocates for turtles include mowing your lawn in the middle of a dry day, setting your mower blades to four inches high and mowing from the center outwards. Peter Paul Van Dijk wrote in a 2021 article for the Turtle Conservancy that the final method effectively “pushes” turtles and other wildlife out of the way of the mower without accidentally trapping them in the lawn.
You can also always take a walk through your lawn looking for turtles and other wildlife before mowing.
Do not try to keep wild turtles as pets
It may be tempting but just because a turtle is cute does not mean it was meant to be a pet. Many turtles are illegal to keep as pets in Georgia, including the commonly seen Box Turtle.
In addition to the legality of keeping a wild animal as a pet, there is also a lot of care that goes into keeping a turtle healthy — and a lot of work that goes into ensuring your turtle doesn’t make you sick. Turtles require special care and are also capable of giving people salmonella if they are not handled correctly.
If you want to be on the safe side and keep yourself out of trouble with the law, just appreciate wild turtles where they belong — in the wild.