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New Hampshire

June 26, 2014

Make way for turtles; they're on the move

Turtles' biggest threat comes on the highway


Turtles in New Hampshire face the same unnatural threat every year: cars.

From mid-May to mid-July, female turtles venture out of marshes, swamps and thickets around the state to make nests and lay their eggs. During their travels, many cross busy roads and some never make it to the other side

Four of the state's seven native turtle species are considered conservation concerns, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game biologist Mike Marchand.

And the biggest threat to New Hampshire's turtle population is traffic.

"Pretty much every adult female is going to be coming up looking for a nesting spot," Marchand said. "During their travels, they're vulnerable to vehicles traveling on roadways."

If a female turtle is killed trying to get to a nesting spot, that's the end of the line.

"It's a people problem, not an animal problem," Derry Animal Control Officer Marlene Bishop said.

She gets several calls a year for injured turtle.

The southeast corner of New Hampshire is a turtle hotspot. Licensed turtle rehabilitator Chris Bogard said the turtle populations are larger here because there are more marshy areas for them to call home.

If they survive, turtles are around for a long time. The Blanding's turtle a turtle indigenous to New Hampshire can live up to 77 years old in the wild, Marchand said.

"Turtles as a whole depend on a high adult survival ... and lay eggs year after year after year in hopes that a few of those eggs will survive," Marchand said. "A lot of things have to go right for them to reach that point."

First, a female must survive long enough to lay eggs. Then, those eggs have to survive the threat from raccoons, foxes and skunks. Once hatched, tiny newborn turtles face their own hurdles.

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