Turtle season is here

From now until end of June, the turtles in our area will be on the move to find nesting spots. Please watch for them and if possible report your sightings on: www.wiatri.net/inventory/witurtles. There’s also a link on the Rock Lake Improvement Association website’s slider: www.rocklake.org. If you prefer to call and report your sighting, please leave a message on 608-225-4583. Indicate where you saw the turtle, the time of day, what they were trying to do and the type of the turtle (if you know it). This information will be used to help the turtles in our area. You could also text a photo to that phone number as well.

Turtle hotspots: Neighbors have reported seeing turtles along:

— Hwy B between Kroghville Rd and Hwy S

— Hwy B along the northside of the lake

— Shorewood Hills Rd

— S. Main St between Phillips Ln to the Mill Pond

— S. Ferry Dr. between Woodland Beach Rd and Milton St.

— Lake Shore Dr between Margarette and W. Lake St.

— Tyranena Park Rd near Rock Creek (between Owen St. and Topeka Dr.)

— Hwy A/Topel St. as it bends around Rock Lake, crosses Rock Creek and borders the marshes

There are probably other areas where turtles are active but haven’t been reported. In general, slow down and watch for turtles anywhere near water or marsh lands.

Helping turtles cross the road:

If you want to assist a turtle in safely crossing the road, follow these suggestions:

1. Make sure you and your vehicle are safe. Put on your hazard lights and be careful of oncoming traffic.

2. Move the turtle across the road in the SAME direction it was going initially. Don’t try to “turn them around.”

3. If they are small enough to carry, hold the shell with two hands in the middle of their shell and carry them low to the ground to minimize any accidental drop. Be careful of their back legs hitting your hands.

4. If the turtle is large or a snapping turtle, grasp the back of the turtle’s shell, spin them around and gently drag them across the road, tail first. Re-orient them in the direction they were going by spinning them around again. NEVER grab a snapper by the tail because their spine is fused to their shell and you could hurt them quite severely. Another way to make the dragging easier is to use a car mat. From the back of the shell, pull the turtle onto the car mat and then pull on the car mat to drag the turtle across the road.

Spiny softshell turtles: These turtles are typically seen along Hwy B and the north side of Rock Lake. They appear to be trying to nest along the road’s shoulder. Since the road has been repaved and the shoulder has been altered, we’re not sure how it will affect the spiny softshell turtles. These turtles are a special inhabitant of our lake, requiring fairly clear water to overwinter. The turtle’s shell is leathery and fairly flat. A female’s shell can measure up to 19” in length. Their nose is long and somewhat pig like. Its feet are fully webbed. These turtles begin mating between ages 8 to 10 and can live upwards of 50 years.

Snapping turtles: Snapping turtles are the largest and heaviest (9-35lbs) of Wisconsin’s turtles. They continue to grow throughout their life. They have a long and jagged looking tail. The head has a pointed snout, a noticeable beak and is very mobile. These turtles begin mating between ages 15 to 20 years and some Canadian scientists suggest that the maximum age is over 100 years. Unlike spiny turtles, snappers can travel extensively over land to lay their eggs. Experimental data seems to support the idea that snapping turtles can sense the Earth’s magnetic field.

Painted turtles: For most Wisconsin residents, painted turtles are the most familiar, often seen basking on logs along waterways. Adult turtles are 4-10” in length. Their skin is olive to black with stripes of red, orange or yellow. Females begin mating between ages of 6 to 16 years and can live for more than 55 years. Female painted turtles can take up to four hours to nest and may make multiple “false” nests.

Northern/Common Map Turtles: Map turtles’ shells are olive green with lines that resemble a topographical map. The shells have a faint midline and range in size from 6 to 10” across. Their skin is olive/dark brown with yellow or greenish striping and they can live 15-20 years.

Blanding Turtles: This species is of “special concern” in Wisconsin. It is a semi-aquatic turtle whose shell size ranges from 7 to 10” across and is speckled with yellow or light colored flakes. The best way to identify them is their bright yellow chin and throat. Blanding turtles interest scientists studying longevity since this turtle shows little to no common signs of aging and are physically active into 80-90 years of life. Typically, they start mating at 14-20 years.

Did you know? What determines the sex of a baby turtle? For many species, it is the outside temperature during incubation. For Blanding turtles, a cooler temperature produces males. For Painted turtles and Map turtles, a cooler temperature produces females! Spiny softshell turtle use genetics to determine the sex.

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