The state of Maine takes great strides to protect its rare turtles by posting “turtle crossing” signs during the nesting season.
In an effort to increase driver awareness, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) and The Nature Conservancy are installing turtle crossing signs in southern Maine for the sixth consecutive year, according to The River Valley Sun.
The signs will warn motorists of potential spotted (Clemmys guttata) and Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) crossings.
Each year from May to July, these beautiful creatures take a risky journey to their nesting grounds. Warm and sunny gravel shoulders attract the turtles — and road mortality plays a large role in their dwindling populations.
There are several reasons for the low population totals.
Both turtles are long lived, but have late age first reproduction. A spotted turtle will not reach sexual maturity until 7-10 years of age, and a female Blanding’s turtle may not reach sexual maturity until 14 – 20 years of age. Late age first reproduction makes the loss of any adult turtle a great loss.
MDIFW also notes that turtle populations are isolated by habitat fragmentation. There are an estimated 21 spotted turtles per square mile and only five Blanding’s turtles per square mile. Roads separate the turtles’ wetland habitats, increasing both mortality rate and habitat fragmentation.
Collection of these rare turtles as pets has also put pressure on the wild population.
MDIFW created habitat preservation measures and guidelines with regard to new construction and low intensity timber harvesting. The efforts of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife give our rare turtles hope.
Photo #1 © Keith Shannon/USFWS; photo #2 by Dave Pape (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons