MDC reminds motorists to give turtles a brake

Missouri turtles are often seen crossing Missouri roadways this time of year as they emerge from their burrows and venture out to search for food, mates or nesting sites. Missouri’s box turtles can live as long as 50 to 80 years and occasionally more than 100 years. Photo courtesy MDC.

This is the time of year when the Missouri Department of Conservation reminds motorists to give turtles crossing roads a brake. Turtles are struck by cars throughout all the warmer months but are at special risk this time of year because they are on the move, emerging from their burrows to search for food and mates. 

Three-toed box turtles, ornate box turtles and common snapping turtles are species often seen crossing roads in Missouri. While most Missouri turtles live 15 to 30 years, box turtles can live 50 to 80 years, and occasionally more than 100 years. They spend their quiet lives eating plants, earthworms and insects. Their shell provides a bony shield to protect them from most natural enemies, but they’re no match for cars and trucks are area roadways.

Turtles spend most of their lives in a small area of habitat but sometimes wander as much as 6 miles. Young males make up most of the travelers as they search for territories of their own and for females, but females are also crossing roads in search of nesting sites. Comfort is also a factor. Like other reptiles, turtles are cold-blooded so basking on warm asphalt feels good on cool spring days.

MDC encourages motorists to slow down when they see a turtle in the road and check to be sure they can safely steer around it. If helping a turtle cross a road, keep human safety as the number-one concern. Check for traffic and move the turtle across the road in the direction it is traveling.

MDC also advises people to leave wild turtles wild. Taking a wild turtle and keeping it as a pet usually ends in a slow death for the captive turtle.

For more information on Missouri turtles, visit MDC’s online Field Guide at or watch the short MDC video posted at

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423