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Vehicles Endanger U.S. Turtles, Report Finds

November 30, 2002|Rosie Mestel

Cars and trucks may be destroying U.S. turtle populations by squashing too many of the slow-moving animals while they forage for food or plod across highways to lay eggs, according to a report in the December issue of Conservation Biology.

Scientists James Gibbs and Gregory Shriver of the State University of New York in Syracuse built a computer simulation that modeled movements of three turtle types -- land turtles, and small- and large-bodied pond turtles. The model also included road and traffic volume data for 19 counties in New York state.

The simulation found that in many regions, more than 5% of turtles were squashed under car wheels -- an ominous number, because studies suggest many turtle species cannot withstand more than a 2% to 3% annual death toll, and many U.S. species are declining.

Scientists noted that their simple model did not consider whether a driver would swerve to avoid a turtle, or try to hit it -- or the possibility that turtles may avoid roads. To save the animals, researchers urge road-free zones or turtle crossings.

-- Rosie Mestel

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