CHICAGO — Why did the turtle cross the Chicago road?
In many cases starting soon, it's to lay eggs along the soft dirt in a city street's shoulder.
Chris Anchor, the chief wildlife biologist for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County since 1987, said the city's turtle population will start to dig egg-laying holes soon.
Justin Breen chats about why you may see a few squashed shells across Chicago in the coming weeks:
Turtles in the area can grow to be up to 70 pounds and live up to 70 years. They sometimes lay eggs near roadways because those locations have frequent sunlight plus the right soil type, Anchor said.
"There aren't a whole lot of options for the animals," Anchor said. "They can only go where sunlight is hitting the ground or where they can dig."
But obviously, it's risky, he said.
"It's a double whammy," Anchor said. "If the turtle has to cross the road, it's a danger, and it's a dangerous place to lay its eggs, too."
Anchor said there is no exact count of the number of turtles within city limits, but he said any area with a waterway — including Jackson Park, Gompers Park, Humboldt Park, Lincoln Park, Garfield Park, Powderhorn Marsh and Prairie, Eggers Woods and LaBagh Woods — has the shelled reptiles.
Common snapping turtles, painted turtles and red-eared sliders are native to Illinois, but non-native species like yellow-bellied chicken turtles and mata mata are frequent finds in Chicago because "people are fond of dumping pets they don't like," Anchor said.
Anchor said turtles usually lay between 8 and 14 eggs, with productivity dropping as their age increases. Unlike alligators and some species of snakes whose parents protect their young, once turtle babies hatch, they are on their own. The eggs laid this month will either hatch in September or October, or they'll incubate for a full year and hatch next May, Anchor said.
Anchor said Chicagoans shouldn't be surprised to see turtles throughout the spring and summer.
"Many people don't realize turtles are even here," he said.