Turtle Damage Prevention and Control Methods

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Overview of Damage Prevention and Control Methods 

Habitat Modification 

  • Eliminate plant growth acting as cover
  • Dredge ponds/rivers
  • Cut banks to 90°

Exclusion

  • Drift fences

Frightening

None have been found to be effective. 

Repellents

None have been found to be effective. 

Toxicants

None are available.

Shooting

  • Air rifles (.177-caliber or above)

Trapping

  • Fike/hoop nets
  • Box traps
  • Set lines

Other Control Methods

  • Direct removal

Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Habitat Modification  

Most types of habitat modification are too expensive and too damaging to the environment to implement on a broad scale. In small locales, eliminate plant growth that would provide cover as well as debris used for basking. Dredge ponds and rivers to remove the muddy bottoms preferred by snapping turtles.  

Snapping turtles movement can be curtailed by cutting banks to 90°. Banks embedded with large rocks can inhibit access to nesting areas also.  

Exclusion 

Exclusion of turtles from ponds and other bodies of water is not practical. Drift fences 1 ft high and buried 6 to 8 inches into ground, however, will prevent turtles from accessing protected areas. 

Frightening Devices 

None have been found to be effective. 

Repellents 

None have been found to be effective. 

Toxicants 

None are available.  

Shooting 

Shooting can reduce populations of turtles in small ponds. The technique is most appropriate with turtles that bask or stay near the water surface, such as mud turtles (Kinosternidae). Air rifles (.177-caliber or above) have sufficient power to take turtles when targeting their heads. Shooting requires special attention to safety due to the risk of ricochet. Consult state and local laws before shooting to ensure legality.  

Trapping 

The use of traps is very effective for reducing local populations of turtles when turtles are not hibernating. Consult your state agency for restrictions. Place traps in quiet water areas of streams and ponds, or in the shallow water of lakes. Traps set in streams must be anchored. If the water is too deep for the top of the trap to be out of the water, lash short logs to each side to float the trap. Snappers and soft-shelled turtles also may be taken readily in baited fyke or hoop nets (Figure 2).  

The trap should be 4 to 6 feet long from front to back of the hoop and made with No. 24 nylon seine twine. Bait traps by suspending a line attached to an oily fish, such as Asian carp, at the end farthest from the opening of the trap. Turtles enter more readily when the mouth of the trap is set downstream. 

Figure 2. Hoop trap for turtles.Image by Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage (PCWD). 

For box, pond, and marsh turtles, use a box sunk where the turtles are located. The turtles will crawl onto the top of the box to bask in the sun and fall into the trap. Another version uses a box with an inclined board leading up to it. Turtles climb on the board to bask and drop into the box.  

Snappers and soft-shelled turtles may be taken on set lines baited with cut fish or other fresh meat. 

Other Methods 

Turtles can be removed directly. For most turtles, simply grab them by the shell. Snapping turtles (including the Alligator turtle) require care to avoid being bitten. Snappers may be grasped safely by the tail, but this technique can be difficult to sustain and may injure the turtles. A preferable method is to approach the turtle from the rear, and place one hand on the back portion of the shell. Reach over with your other hand, knuckles facing the top of the snapping turtle’s head with fingers cupped, to grasp the top end of the shell (Figure 3). Use your knuckles to keep its head down. Release by quickly moving your hands to the rear of the turtle to avoid being bitten.  

Figure 3. Proper hand position for grasping the shell of a snapping turtle (alligator snapping turtle pictured). Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel.

Disposition 

Relocation 

Limit moving turtles to situations involving rescue, such as when they are crossing a street. Move a turtle in the direction it was walking, provided you can do so safely.  

Translocation 

Many states prohibit the translocation of wildlife, including turtles, for humane and public health reasons. If translocation is legal, move turtles to suitable habitat at least 5 miles.