MDC encourages drivers to look out for turtles and give ‘em a brake!

News from the region
Published Date

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is urging drivers to keep a cautious eye on the road this spring and give turtles a brake! Many species of Missouri’s turtles become more active during the spring as they emerge from their burrows and cross the roads in search of food and a mate.

Common species crossing the roads include the three-toed box turtle, ornate box turtle, and even snapping turtles.

These reptiles are often hit by cars during the warmer months, but are at special risk in the spring as they emerge from burrows during warm and wet conditions, which can lead them to cross roadways. Unfortunately, thousands of box turtles are killed every year by vehicles.

Young males make up most of the travelers, sometimes wandering as many as six miles searching for territories and mates. Females are also crossing the roads in search of nesting areas.

Turtles are cold-blooded and depend on external sources of heat to determine their body temperature. This explains why many see them on warm asphalt during cool, spring days.

Vehicles are one of the leading factors in box turtle declines, and MDC urges motorists to be cautious and slow down when they see a turtle in the road. If stopping to help a turtle make it safely across, check for traffic and move the turtle in the direction it is traveling.

MDC also encourages the public to leave turtles in the wild. Keeping a wild animal as a pet can lead to a slow death, no matter how good the intentions. Leave turtles in the wild, follow the speed limit, and keep your eyes on the road.

For more information on Missouri’s native turtles, visit MDC’s online Field Guide at