By Stacey Venzel
Baby humans are small but not nearly as small as baby turtles. The intelligence of a baby turtle also far exceeds that of a newborn infant.
Even baby turtles know where they are going so it is best to take a look if you find one but then leave the turtle alone. However, in some instances a baby turtle sighting might call for you to intervene.
ADMIRE AND LEAVE BE
Baby turtles are worth admiring. They have impressive growth rates, increasing from the size of a coin to hundreds or thousands of pounds in a lifetime. However, if you encounter one in the wild, it is best to leave it be after you take in all of its miniature features. If the turtle appears in danger, you might be able to offer some assistance.
WHEN TO OFFER ASSISTANCE
Remember that turtles have impeccable internal GPS systems. They likely know where they are going but did not expect a highway barrier to be in the way. You can help a baby turtle cross the road just like you would help an adult turtle by moving it out of harm’s way, placing it in the direction it was headed. Aquatic hatchlings are likely headed to the nearest water source. If you find the turtle in a busy area, it would benefit the hatchling’s survival to give it a boost closer to its intended destination, such as a nearby lake or forest, depending on the species.
Additionally, if you find a baby turtle at night, minimize light sources because artificial lighting can disorient them—even camera flashes. Some instances of sea turtle hatchlings found floating outside of the ocean current or wandering far inland suggest the turtle is disoriented. Because the baby only has a limited energy supply from its yolk to make it out to sea, alerting a local sea turtle wildlife center might get the hatchling into a safe haven where it can rest and replenish before being released back into the wild. In this case, your intervening guided by the work of the conservation center could give this sea turtle baby a second chance at survival!
Karen Eckert, David Gulko, Sea Turtles: An Ecological Guide (Honolulu, Mutual Publishing, 2004), 73-75, 85, 108-109, 112.
Whit Gibbons, Judy Greene, Turtle: The Animal Answer Guide (Baltimore, The John Hopkins University Press, 2009), 86-87.