Given this, what can a good-hearted person do when they find one basking in the middle of a trail? If you’re lucky, the tortoise will pose for a quick photo and then casually move off the trail away from you. (Please make sure you take your photo from a respectful distance). Keeping your voice low and your movements calm will reduce the stress to the tortoise and may keep it from hiding in its shell.
Depending on your activity and the type of trail you are on, you may not need to do anything more than that. For example, if you find a large tortoise on a trail used only for hiking, there really isn’t much danger to the tortoise and you should let it move on it’s own accord. If It’s a hatchling tortoise or on a trail with mountain bike use, it may be in danger of being stepped on or hit. Assess the danger of the tortoise in its current situation, taking into account its size. If you decide the tortoise needs to move off the trail, there are some steps you should take before picking it up.
First, you wait. Remember your childhood cartoons, these are not fast creatures. Sit down about 5 feet from the tortoise and have a snack. You’ll be far enough away that the tortoise won’t feel threatened, but close enough to warn another rider or hiker of its presence. If the tortoise refuses to move on its own after about 10 minutes, simply standing behind the tortoise and giving it a gentle tap on the backside with your shoe, or tickling a back foot, should prompt some movement. You may have to shuffle behind the tortoise at a slow pace to keep it motivated to move a safe distance off trail. It is important to encourage the tortoise to move in the direction it was heading. As you’ve likely already seen, they can be very stubborn and will attempt to re-cross the trail if they end up on the wrong side.