NEW YORK (WETM) – It’s nesting season for turtles, so the DEC is reminding New Yorkers to keep an eye out for the slow-moving reptiles this spring.

The DEC said turtles nest in May and June, and May 23, 2023 is World Turtle Day, so the department is calling on drivers to “give turtles a brake” and avoid hitting them as they cross the road. Slow down and stop if possible, the DEC said.

And, if you’re able to, you can help the turtle get across by picking it up by the sides of their shells, not their tails. If it’s a snapping turtle, try picking it up with both hands from the back of the shell to avoid getting bit. And if necessary, you can slide a car mat under a turtle to drag it across the road.

But again, the DEC says not to pick up or drag turtles by their tails.

“While a turtle’s shell provides protection from predators, it does not protect against being struck by vehicles while crossing roadways,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “Vehicle strikes are a major cause of mortality among turtles and New York’s native turtles are more susceptible at this time of year as they seek sandy areas or loose soil in which to lay their eggs.” Especially in these coming weeks, DEC urges drivers to be on the lookout for turtles and slow down, particularly on roads near rivers and marshy areas.”

But it’s not just vehicles that pose risks to turtles. The DEC said practicing clean and sustainable trash habits can go a long way to protect not just turtles, but lots of wildlife. These include recycling, not littering, not releasing balloons or lanterns, or volunteering for cleanups.

If you see a turtle, the DEC also said you should not take it home. Turtles native to New York are protected by law and many are dropping in number. If you see an injured turtle, you can call a DEC-licensed wildlife rehabilitator.