New Brunswick

Turtles are out more than ever this time of year. Here's how you can protect them

Turtles are on the move this time of year, often crossing streets and roads and putting themselves in the way of danger.

If you see a turtle in a strange spot, don't pick it up, researcher says

Turtles are waking up from hibernation and moving to new areas to feed this time of year. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Turtles are on the move this time of year. 

Connie Browne, a research associate in herpetology at the New Brunswick Museum, says people have to watch out for the reptiles, which can often be seen crossing streets and roads through to the end of May.

"They're moving from their hibernation sites to their feed grounds this time of year," Browne said.

She said turtles are instinctive and can travel for long distances across inhospitable land to get to where they need to go. 

"They might seem out of place but they know where they are and where they're going," she said. 

Typically, it's the same spot they were feeding in the year before. 

Motorists who encounter turtles attempting to cross roadways are encouraged not to pick them up. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Turtles eat bugs, vegetation, invertebrates near water and dead fish.

"They're omnivores," she said. "They eat a mixture of plants and animals.

A species at risk 

Turtles are considered a species at risk, according to the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

"Turtles, just like everywhere else in Canada, their populations are in decline, unfortunately," she said. "They're all considered species at risk."

There are many factors at play, including habitat loss and degradation. There are also many animals that prey on turtles and their eggs, including racoons, crows, ravens, coyotes.

New Brunswick has three native turtle species in the province including the snapping turtle, painted turtle. These turtles can typically be found in or near slower moving bodies of water like lakes and ponds.

There's also the wood turtle, which prefers clear water with sandy bottoms, like streams and rivers.

These turtles can live between 50 and 100 years and were around before dinosaurs. 

"They almost always live year to year unless something bad happens to them."

A turtle's life cycle

Turtles hibernate during the winter by staying in a body of water.

"They're looking for sites that don't freeze," she said. "But they like the cool water because it helps them lower their metabolism and use less energy." 

TIME LAPSE: Snapping turtle lays her eggs

6 years ago
Duration 1:02
Featured VideoCBC's Shane Fowler caught this snapping turtle in the midst of laying her eggs. We've sped up the half hour of effort into one minute.

Some turtles will also bury themselves in the mud or sit on the water bottom. 

As soon as the temperature warms, they come out of hibernation. They prepare to lay eggs in June.

What to do if you see one?

If a turtle has been hit by a car, you are encouraged to call the Atlantic Wildlife Institute for help.

She said veterinarians there are trained to rebuild a turtle's shell if it breaks.

If you believe a turtle is stuck somewhere, Browne said, you should contact the Department of Natural Resources.

"Most cases, turtles don't need any help."


Elizabeth Fraser


Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip?