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Turtles are on the move this time of year

Turtles are on the move this time of year

Many Pasco County drivers get frustrated with slow traffic, especially when they swerve to miss hitting the ultimate slow pokers — turtles and tortoises — taking shortcuts across local roads this time of the year.

One such beast, a large Florida softshell turtle, recently ambled along Aruba Lane in Port Richey before veering toward a sidewalk.

“People tend to have strong feelings about them, either love ’em or hate ’em,” said Katie Mac Millen, a biological technician for the Pasco County Natural Resources Department.

“Many native Floridians know that they have a sharp bite and don’t like them,” Mac Millen wrote in an email.

“These guys are super-streamlined for the water and flat to hide in the mud,” Mac Millen said. “I think they are absolute masters of the universe they reign in — strong, silent swimmers, appearing and disappearing like ghosts.”

Such turtles — they are particularly active this time of the year, during mating season — dine on snails, shrimp, crayfish, clams, water insects, aquatic insect larvae, amphipods and other macroinvertebrates.

“I have always identified them by their Coke/Pepsi bottle nose,” Mac Millen said. “No other turtle in our area has this nose.”

People should consult state wildlife officials for the legalities of handling them, Mac Millen said. “I know they cannot be hunted (or) harvested during their egg-laying season, which is May, June and July.”

corth@suncoastnews.com