BARNEGAT, NJ – The locals expect them to come in droves right after the Memorial Day holiday. However, it’s not just vacationers seeking the sun and surf triggering the standstills. Nesting turtles cause their fair share of traffic jams.

A couple of days ago, a giant box turtle decided to cross Main Street on the portion of the roadway leading into Manahawkin. Traffic backed up past Route 72 as drivers maneuvered their way around the large terrapene.

Finally, the operator of a tanker pulled off to the side of the road. He literally took matters into his own hands, carrying the turtle across the street in the direction it was headed. Traffic resumed at a reasonable speed.

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Union County transplant Kathy Grausam discovered a roaming turtle in her garden. “I really didn’t see many of them up north,” says Grausam. “I’m just glad they like bugs more than my roses.”

Some might be tempted to capture the turtles and keep them as pets. One problem. New Jersey laws prohibit taking in turtles from the wild. Those who want a turtle as a pet will need to buy one out of state. It’s also illegal to sell turtles here because they potentially carry salmonella.

Beware: Turtle Crossing

The Division of Fish & Wildlife provides some insight into reptiles and amphibians of New Jersey. Turtles fall into the reptile classification. Like amphibians, they adapt to both land and water.  Their hard-scaly shell and claws on their toes add to the distinction.

Why do turtles cross the road? It’s not just the obvious – to get to the other side. From May through July, terrapins are almost always on the way to find a place to lay their eggs. Often, they already have a perfect spot picked out to dig in the ground.

Once they make the necessary hole, turtles deposit their eggs and cover their nesting burrows with soil. The sand serves the purpose just as well as dirt or mud. It takes up to 120 days for the babies to hatch. Meanwhile, mom has already moved on.

The bad news is that not many turtle eggs actually make it. In a sense, it’s survival of the fittest as an assortment of predators go on the attack. Fire ants represent the worst threat, although turtle hatchlings also fall prey to raccoons and skunks, and other animals.

Some Turtle Advice

Many feel compelled to help turtles crossing the road. It’s certainly acceptable to do so provided you move the terrapin in the same direction it was headed. Meanwhile, here are some other helpful hints:

  • Don’t pick up a snapping turtle. If it needs relocation, prod it gently with a stick.
  • Never attempt to carry any kind of turtle by its tail.
  • If you find baby turtles, don’t expect to locate their mother. She’s gone.
  • Resist the temptation to keep a wild turtle as a pet. It’s against the law.

If you want to learn more about these slow-moving creatures, consider contacting the Turtle Conservatory on Long Beach Island. One of their projects has helped add to the dwindling population of Northern Diamondback Terrapins.


Stephanie A. Faughnan is both a journalist and the Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing service. She enjoys telling stories and can be reached at