Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program

Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program
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© 2012 Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program

Steps to Reduce Turtle Road Crossing Mortality and Other Reasons for Decline

Turtle Conservation Practices

  • Install turtle crossing signs to increase public awareness and improve human and turtle safety.
  • Without jeopardizing the safety of yourself and others, help turtles cross roads in the direction they were headed.
  • Video courtesy of Toronto Zoo's Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Program.

  • Report road crossing mortalities to the WDNR.
  • Don’t remove turtles from the wild.
  • Don’t purchase restaurant foods with turtle products in them.
  • Don’t purchase souvenirs made from real turtles (shells, etc.)
  • When purchasing a turtle, verify that it comes from a reputable breeder and that it is not wild-caught. If you're unsure, don’t buy it.
  • Don’t release pet turtles into the wild. They often spread diseases to wild populations.
  • Support turtle habitat protection efforts in Wisconsin such as wetland and prairie restorations.
  • Supplement historic upland nesting sites that are bisected by roads with new artificial nesting sites located within non-fragmented habitat and near wetlands. Artificial nesting has been demonstrated to be easily detected and utilized by nesting female turtles.
  • Donate to the WDNR Endangered Resources Fund.

Construct and Design Turtle Friendly Roads

  • Preconstruction planning for wildlife crossing "hot spots" is more economical than enhancing existing road structures.
  • Avoid building roads through existing wetlands. Establish bridges if there are no other options.
  • Keep road widths to minimum standards to reduce crossing distances on roads.
  • Set up silt fencing in road construction areas to prevent nesting of turtles. Remove fencing after work is complete.
  • Avoid using welded plastic mesh or webbing in erosion control practices. Instead use products with woven or unwelded material so turtles won’t get entangled.
  • Use biodegradable materials in all erosion control practices along roads.
  • Border roads by establishing rural shoulders or use Type D or Type S curbs in urban areas so turtles can easily move across the landscape. Traditional curbs and gutters can trap turtles or direct animals into sewers, often resulting in death.

Enhance Current Wildlife Crossing Structures

  • Below crossing structures, integrate a level passage bench into riprap designs or fill in riprap with gravel. These methods are both cost effective and allow safe passage for turtles and other wildlife.
  • Install appropriately sized culverts under roads. Culverts should have a minimum diameter of 1 meter (larger diameters have proved more effective) for dry culverts. Bankfull width or larger is needed for culverts with streams and rivers flowing through.
  • Use flat-bottomed or arched culverts that have lengths as short as the road allows.
  • The inclusion of natural substrates such as soil and gravel lining the base of culverts provide increased habitat continuity and encourage turtles to pass through.
  • Install 0.6-0.9 meter high guide fencing along roads to lead turtles to bridges and culverts. The most effective fences are ones that deviate movements of turtles by less than 60 degrees and are used to complement existing crossing structures.
  • Make sure guide fencing end posts fit tightly against the edges of bridges and culverts so turtles and other wildlife can not pass through.
  • Sediment fencing (300 ft along the road) that wraps perpendicularly from the road to wetlands is a proven method to prevent road crossing mortalities.
  • Natural vegetation often enhances the "attractiveness" of crossings for a variety of wildlife due to the perceived continuity of habitat.

Road Management

  • Avoid or minimize grading and mowing road shoulders between mid-May to August near lakes and wetlands to increase the chance of successful hatches among turtles.
  • Use spot treatment methods to spray or mow invasive species along roadsides.
  • Remove roadside brush from fall to early spring.


This site is produced in conjunction with the Wisconsin Aquatic and Terrestrial Resources Inventory and sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The information presented on this site is subject to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Legal Notices, Disclaimers, and Terms of Use.