SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There are 13 species of turtle in West Virginia, but the most beloved is none other than the eastern box turtle, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources officials said in a news release this week.

Eastern box turtles are on the move now that spring has arrived and are a familiar sight in backyards and along hiking trails, DNR naturalists said. These reptiles get their name from their hinged shell, which consists of a dome-like carapace and hinged underbelly that lets the turtle close its shell any time it feels threatened, officials detailed.

“It’s a really unique defense mechanism, and it makes it really hard for predators to actually get to them,” said Lauren Cole, a naturalist at Chief Logan State Park.

While their shells protect them from the usual forest predator, traffic-related injuries and death is a concern for box turtles. So, if you see one trying to cross the road, DNR officials suggest following these simple rules:

  1. Safely stop your car on the side of the road
  2. Find out which direction the turtle is traveling
  3. Gently move them off the road, in that direction

Box turtles have very long lifespans and can live for more than 100 years, though most usually don’t live longer than 30 or 40 years, DNR experts said.