Turtles on the Roadway Need Your Help

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MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont's turtles are on the move, and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is asking for the public's help in keeping them safe.  
Female turtles will soon be looking for places to lay their eggs, and they sometimes choose inconvenient or dangerous locations.  For example, turtles often lay eggs in gravel parking lots and driveways and along road shoulders, which puts them at risk of being hit by motor vehicles.
"Turtles commonly cross roads as they move to nesting sites and summer foraging habitats," said Luke Groff, biologist for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.  "Many turtles killed on roads are mature breeding females, so not only is the female taken from the population but so are her future offspring.  Turtles grow slowly and females of some species may not reproduce until 10 or even 15 years old.  So, for small, isolated populations, the loss of mature breeding females may have population-level effects." 
Turtle nesting activity peaks between late May and mid-June, and drivers are urged to keep an eye out for turtles on the road – especially when driving near ponds, rivers and wetlands. 
"Turtles are usually slow to move, so they have a tough time safely crossing roads.  If you spot a turtle on the road, please consider helping it across but be sure you're in a safe spot to pull over and get out of your car.  Human safety comes first," said Groff.  "If you're going to move a turtle off the road, always move it in the direction it was traveling.  They know where they're going." 
Most turtles can be picked up and carried across the road.  However, snapping turtles have long necks and a powerful bite, so people should be alert and know what the species looks like.  If the turtle is large or if it lacks colorful lines, spots, or other markings, then it may be a snapper.  Instead of picking up snappers with your hands, try lifting them with a shovel or pulling them across the road on cardboard or a car floor mat.
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Protect Grassland Birds by Mowing Later

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Bobolinks, Savannah sparrows and eastern meadowlarks enrich our summers with their songs, but their populations continue to suffer long-term declines due to the loss in quantity and quality of their grassland habitat.

"These species continue to experience long-term population declines across the continent, and on Vermont's grasslands, especially in large fields and in open landscapes, there are opportunities to help," said Rosalind Renfrew, biologist for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

Landowners can make a difference by altering the times of year they mow fields.  Fish and Wildlife is encouraging landowners to help these beloved species by waiting to mow fields used by grassland birds, giving them a chance to rear their young.

"People maintain open, grassy fields in Vermont for a variety of reasons, from producing hay to providing pasture for grazing, to simply maintaining scenic beauty," said Renfrew, "For those who can afford it, the timing of mowing or brush hogging can be adjusted to allow grassland birds to successfully raise young."

Bobolinks, Savannah sparrows, eastern meadowlarks and wild turkeys build nests right on the ground, among the grasses and wildflowers.  Deer fawns and other animals take refuge in grass fields, and other birds such as bluebirds, kestrels, whip-poor-wills, and northern harriers rely on grass fields for food.

According to Renfrew, landowners who do not need to mow for animal forage can accommodate nesting birds by cutting late in the summer, preferably after Aug. 1.

People concerned about invasive plants may choose to sometimes mow a portion of their field more frequently, to keep invasive plants in check. 

"The birds don't like fields dominated by invasives such as parsnip, bedstraw, chervil, and others any more than we do," says Renfrew.  "Mowing earlier and more frequently to control and prevent those species from going to seed can mean temporarily sacrificing the needs of the birds," said Renfrew, "but when it helps maintain habitat quality over the long term, it's worth it."

Landowners who face a loss of income from delaying mowing can apply for assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service or The Bobolink Project.

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