Utica, NY (WIBX) - The Department of Environmental Conservation is urging people to steer clear of turtles that may be crossing the road.

According to the DEC, though the exact numbers are unknown, experts say snapping turtles and painted turtles may be in decline.

Biologist, Angelena Ross, says turtles take years to mature, and even then their success may be hampered.

"A snapping turtle can take anywhere between 8 and 12 years before it can reproduce, and then it may never actually successfully hatch a nest," Ross said. "There's predators out there that dig up nests. Raccoons are big nest predators."

Ross also says motorists are considered predators, in some cases actually swerving off the road to hit turtles as they try to build their nests.

To help lower turtle mortality rates, the DEC is asking drivers to slow down and pay attention to what may be in the road, especially during nesting season.

If they survive to adulthood, most species of turtles can live many years with few natural predators.