HOPEWELL: Be alert for turtles crossing roads at this time of year


To the editor: 
This is the time of year to be alert for turtles on the roads. Turtles are crossing roads near water to lay their eggs, and sometimes just warming themselves on the pavement—like the dead box turtle I saw today on Pennington-Rocky Hill Road. Unfortunately, over the years, I have seen dead turtles on all of the roads into and around Hopewell Borough. These casualties have included snapping turtles, painted turtles, and box turtles, but each year I see them in decreasing numbers.
Box turtles are currently listed as a “Species of Special Concern” in New Jersey by the N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife, Endangered and Nongame Species Program. Why? Because roads transect the habitat for box turtles (and other species), and few turtles that venture onto roads survive. They do not have a chance against cars and trucks. Other factors affecting box turtles are habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation preventing individual turtles from finding mates and food. Plus, the slow reproductive rate of box turtles and the danger of the illegal pet trade means box turtles have poor recovery from the loss of a few individual turtles, which could potentially lead to their extinction in a particular area or the county. (See Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey website.)
Why does it matter to you? We live in the most densely populated state in the country with heavily trafficked roads and diminishing habitat for native species of animals. Help protect our native species that are so critical to our natural ecology. Turtles, frogs and snakes cannot get out of your vehicle’s way—be alert.
If you see a turtle in the road, let it continue in the direction in which it is headed. If that means stopping or diverting traffic, then do so until these gentle and slow creatures are out of harm’s way.
If you rescue an injured wild animal, contact the Mercer County Wildlife Center at 609-303- 0552. The Wildlife Center is an extraordinary 365-day resource for our community that treats approximately 2,400 injured birds and animals each year. A majority are rehabilitated and able to be released back into the wild.
If drivers would be a little more alert, wild animals in the Hopewell Valley might have a chance to survive in the habitat we share with them. 
Mary Rabbitt 
Hopewell Borough 