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JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Department of Conservation encourages drivers to be cautious on the roads this spring and give turtles a brake, according to a statement from the department. These reptiles are often hit by cars during the warmer months, but are at special risk this time of year because they are more active.

Common turtles spotted crossing Missouri roads include three-toed box turtles, ornate box turtles, and snapping turtles.

Turtles emerge from their burrows and begin the hunt for food and mates during warm and wet conditions, which can lead them to cross roadways, oftentimes resulting in their death. Thousands of box turtles are killed every year by vehicles.

Young males make up most of the travelers, sometimes wandering as many as six miles searching for territories and mates. Females are also crossing the roads in search of nesting areas.

Turtles are cold-blooded creatures and depend on external sources of heat to determine their body temperature. This explains why people see them on warm asphalt during cool, spring days.

Vehicles are one of the leading factors in box turtle declines, and MDC urges motorists to be cautious and slow down when they see a turtle in the road. If helping a turtle make it safely across, check for traffic and move the turtle across the road in the direction it is traveling.

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