How To Help A Snapping Turtle Cross The Road

How To Help A Snapping Turtle Cross The Road

Yesterday we came across three big snapping turtles along nearby Wisconsin roadways. Of course, we don’t want them to get run over, so we want to help. But how DO you help a big, snappy snapping turtle cross the road?

This video from the Toronto Zoo is a pretty good guide. I wish we would have known had some of these ideas over the years!  On the other hand, grabbing them at the back of the shell still takes a bit of courage!

And always remember, be safe. Park your car in a safe location and watch for traffic at all times!


  1. Beth Sluys

    Hi Derrick,

    When I clicked on your toronto zoo link it took me to their site but it was a story about the Union disputes closing the zoo. when I clicked on the link to comment, it brought up the turtle link. Just wanted to let you know to review the links to clear it up. too valuable a story to miss….



  2. Author

    Hi Beth, I think you may have inadvertently entered the zoo’s site when they may have been hacked. I see now it says that they are opening June 15th.. That said, I simply liked them since they created the video, not to provide further info on turtles. 🙂

  3. Lyn Lorenz

    We have large snappers visit us regularly over the years in springtime. All we’ve ever done is take a broom or coat or shovel or gazateer or whatever you have on hand & put it behind them & gently but firmly push in the correct direction. Those big girls actually can get up on their legs & really move! You just have to be really careful. One of the first we helped snapped a broom handle in half. It was a good lesson!

    1. Tracey

      Agree! Just helped a snapper across the road the other day who would violently snap every time is even came near it! Always try to help, but don’t assume the snapper you encounter will be as docile as this one! They can take your finger off.

  4. Susan Hamrick

    I’ve grabbed more than one and picked it up and moved it to the far side of the road. Just wait to figure out how fast it will move and then the direction and pick up and cart to the place. Fairly easy.

  5. Becca

    When I lived in an area with alot of snappers I always had an old towel in the car. If one needed help crossing the road I would stop and dangle the towel in front of them until they grabbed it and then drag them across the road. Of course, then I had to back up and wait for them to release the towel and move on. But it worked and kept all my fingers safe.

  6. Karma

    Was this turtle drugged??? We live between two ponds; we have saved countless turtles, including several large snappers. Each one of them has been very aggressive & active. Our method is a large tub & snow shovel. I’ve never seen one that would work with most of these methods. But i sure appreciate the thought of saving them!

    1. Cheryl

      I have had many a turtle story especially cuz my mother loved Turtles…. my favorite story is last year when I spied a giant Snapper trying to cross a road near a lake. By the end of the story we had about 4 cars with all kinds of people trying to direct him in the right place. Ever so gently. It was a wonderful get together of some great people. If only the world would take good care of the animals that God has created what a great place this would be

    1. john

      bad idea,,unless you keep your hands out of the gloves…snappers can bend their heads almost to their tails….so even grabbing by the back of the shell is iffy……..i would use a stick to push or if its thick enough to not break if they bite down on it…then drag them…

  7. Glenda

    Years ago I found a snapping turtle in the road. My kids were with me so the only thing I could think of was to have the turtle bite onto my tire iron then use it to drag him onto a blanket. We dragged him off the road and he headed into a pond. My question is, had we not had a blanket, could I have drug him off the road with the tire iron, or could that have hurt him?

  8. Patricia

    I’d leave my car w/ the flashers on in my lane. That way no one will run over the turtle. Then I’d very gently pick it up and put it in the weeds away from the street. I see how snapping turtles Lee when your messing with them. And I seen one that bit a guys finger off.

  9. Jan

    I had a turtle that big, and maybe bigger come up from 10 mile river, and walk through the back of my CONDO area in Attleboro. She spent about 30 minutes walking up and down a dried up water revenue (over flow) and continued along to the other end and disappeared. Walked away from the water area, maybe going to lay eggs ? This snapper had such a long neck, I had no intention of picking it up or turning it in any direction for fear of being bitten…….

  10. Laurie

    I hope you paid that turtle for having to put up with being dragged back and forth across the road 18 times! LOL

  11. Gina

    How do you tell the difference between snapping turtles and other kinds? Are the larger ones always snapping turtles?

    1. Kay Hardin

      Box turtles have a boxed textured shell. Painted turtles are pretty and colorful. Snappers have ridges around their shells, and they do not back down! The Box and the painted turtle are shy.

  12. henry cavanagh

    our local cowboys love to AIM for turtles and snakes….4′ long black snakes. we ‘help[‘ them all. there’s often a cheering crowd of advice givers, so we have tried everything. a tip…wash your hands after any contact…any beastie may carry salmonella. we once found a nice box turtle that had been clipped. INSTA-GLUE or whatever, made a strong waterproof seal…(after a hydrogen peroxide bath!) and knit the cracks together…..a lettuce snack, then careful release into a secluded lagoon.

  13. Allen Rogers

    A few years back, I came across one at least 3x the size of the one in the video. I pulled around it & stopped so no one would run over it & suggested my wife scoot it across the road. It was not a busy road, it was warm, & I thought the snapper might be tired. A small pond nearby had been drained for construction & I figured that it had worked hard to get to the point where we found him. I was watching for oncoming traffic when my wife approached the turtle. After she yelped & I spotted the snapper lunge at her, I knew it was up to me. She came running to the car & said she’d drive. I struggled to pick up this giant & hold it in the car while she sped away. I thought of a nearby wetland area where he might survive. I dropped him gently into a river from a bridge (not far from the top of the water & we left. Of course he urinated all over me & left my car & forearms scarred w/ scratches, but we felt good about giving nature a helping hand. My wife had dreams of being chased by that snapper for some time thereafter !

  14. margaret mathews

    I was walking with my dog on leash when we came upon a snapper heading toward the road. What to do?? I knew to stay away from the front end but was unsure of the reach of the front end. I thought, why not give the turtle something to chomp down on so it wouldn’t chomp on me. Looking around, no sticks of reasonable size, but I had a dog leash. I unleashed the dog, placed the leash near the turtle’s mouth and, sure enough, it lived up to its name. It clomped onto that leash and would not let go. With the front end busy, I moved the turtle to a safer place near water and woods. At that point I wanted the leash back. It took a bit of convincing by grabbing the leash and shaking it back and forth. It finally let go and we all went on our way.

  15. Dave

    i have always used my baseball glove or something he can chomp down on and i either dragged him or lifted him off the ground(not too high and set him down on other side of road they always let go and went on their way . I’m 62 i bet i saved at least a dozen snappers in my life doing it this way (don’t use sticks if you don’t have to . they will snap them) bottom line is what ever you do is better than getting run over

  16. Jean Buckley

    I would NEVER attempt to pick up a snapping turtle with my hands. They can jump a couple of feet in the air. They can spin around so fast so that they are always facing you. Best to give them something to bite on, and drag them off the road in the direction they were going. The turtle in the video was the most complacent I have ever seen. Not at all typical.

    1. GPC

      My few experiences with snapping turtles in the road have been somewhat unnerving. The last one did spin around and constantly maneuvered to face me. I found a stick and managed to slide him in his desired direction. But I do like everyone’s suggestion about letting them chomp on a soft but sturdy item and dragging as gently as possible.
      Glad to know there are so many wonderful wildlife warriors helping the wild ones.

  17. Annie Wilczk

    Thank you.Helping turtles this time of year is a frequent activity for those of us known as wildlife rehabbers..we for some reason feel it’s our duty to assist those endangered, helpless and usually looked upon as nuisance specie. I lecture often to kids on wildlife and this very same technique (grasping the very back of the shell at the natural handles ) I use in the rescue segment of my lectures. The use of a huge garbage can lid provides a substitute prop..the kids hopefully go on and save a few turtles themselves. One point that must be addressed is..always be watchful of the idiot in a vehicle; don’t become a victim for your kind efforts ..always be vigilant of traffic.

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