AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and
The Nature Conservancy are cooperating to install new road signs
warning motorists of endangered turtle road crossing locations in the
towns of Wells, South Berwick and York with the hope of reducing
collisions with two of the state’s rarest species, according to a press release issued by DIFW Friday.

“Late May through early July in southern Maine is a critical period when female turtles undertake risky overland forays to reach nesting areas,” the release stated. “During this time, turtles often cross roads, sometimes with fatal consequences.”

Both Spotted and Blanding’s turtles are protected under Maine’s Endangered Species Act.

Both species have seen much of their freshwater wetland habitat destroyed or degraded, the release stated. Now, as human population densities and rates of development increase in southern Maine, it is feared that road mortality is becoming an ever-increasing threat. The turtle’s shell is its signature adaptation that has served to protect adults from most predators for millions of years. It is no match, however, for the simple car tire.

Both Spotted and Blanding’s turtles are extremely long-lived animals that take a minimum of 7  to 14 years to reach reproductive age. This coupled with low hatchling success places a premium on adult survivorship. In fact, recent population analyses of several freshwater turtle species indicate that as little as 2-3 percent additive annual mortality of adults is unsustainable, leading to local population extinction.

“Simply put, there is probably no group of organisms in Maine for which roads represent a more serious threat to long-term population viability than turtles, and no place more threatening than southern York County where road density and traffic volumes peak,” the release stated.

A cooperative study recently completed by the University of Maine‘s Wildlife Ecology Department and DIFW has identified high-density rare turtle areas where road-crossing hotspots are located in southern Maine.

With the assistance of the Maine Department of Transportation, the Mt. Agamenticus Conservation Coalition and local towns, state biologists are installing temporary yellow warning signs in strategic locations to alert motorists to the possible presence of turtles on the roadway, the release stated.

The signs will only be deployed seasonally, coinciding with the spring and summer period when overland turtle movements are greatest, thus helping to maximize the signs impact by reducing “sign fatigue” by local commuters.

DIFW requests that motorists encountering one of the new roadside turtle signs reduce their speed and increase their vigilance for potential road-crossing turtles.

Should a driver come across a turtle on the road and care to help, state biologists advise pulling over and moving the turtle to the side of the road it was headed, if it is safe to do so.

“If just a few rare turtles can be saved annually from a roadkill fate, it is believed the road signs will have contributed to the recovery of these declining species,” the release stated.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.