East End Motorists: Make Way For Turtles




A painted turtle buried her clutch of eggs in a backyard in Montauk last week. 

Over the next few weeks, motorists on the East End should keep an eye out for wandering turtles, which will be moving around their territories during their peak nesting season, this month.

Melanie Meade, at the South Fork Natural History Museum (SoFo) explained this week that the painted, box and snapping turtles who live in and around local ponds are moving away from the water at this time of the year to nest and lay their eggs. Once they have laid their eggs, she said, they may return to lay more, or else they will leave the eggs to hatch on their own.

Usually in April, or whenever the air temperature gets warm, local turtles wake up from hibernation and feast on pond insects and plants before getting to work looking for a mate. Once they do, the female turtles travel great turtle distances to lay a clutch of around 20 eggs. Snapping turtles, the official turtle of the great State of New York, will travel up to 100 feet to find the perfect nesting spot, and so the eggs can be found a surprising distance from waterways.

Many turtles, specifically box turtles which have larger territories than many of their reptilian relatives, are killed by cars each year as they move around their stomping grounds.

“If people want to help, use great caution,” Ms. Meade said. “Carry them across the road in the direction where they’re already going,” she said, because otherwise the slow but stubborn terrapins will just make the treacherous trek again.

There are turtles all over the East End of Long Island, Ms. Meade said, but often hang out near wooded areas close to fields. Box turtles are often seen crossing the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike because of the many temporary seasonal ponds along the road, which is adjacent to the Long Pond Green Belt.

“If you have seen them there in the past, they’ll be there again,” she added.