We lose so much wildlife to road mortality here in Ontario. Our roads are well paved and well-tended, making great speedways, but often these roads dissect important habitats and migration routes for wildlife. Notably, turtle populations are most threatened and impacted by road mortality (ahead even of other significant issues of habitat loss and the pet trade). This is significant because it can take more than 20 years for a turtle to reach maturity and then another 20 years or more of laying eggs, until one turtle reaches adulthood to replace its parent. Also snakes, our great pest-controllers, are killed on roads and the devastation that roads are causing to these populations, and populations of birds and mammals, remains notable, but yet unqualified.
You can help by using vision-tactics when driving: When cruising in the highlands, or anywhere for that matter, it is important to look far ahead instead of immediately in front of you, and also to keep your eyes relaxed in order to take in the entire view. This type of “wide- viewing” takes some practice, but allows you to see what is coming from the all directions including from the sides of the roads and also to see both near and far. Another tip is to look out for certain patterns: when driving through natural areas, take particular notice of where wetlands are found on both sides of the road. These low lying areas where roads dissect wetlands are ideal spots for many mammals including river otters, mink, raccoons, and of course, turtles to cross the road. Time of day also makes a difference to some mammals occupancy on roads; species such as deer are more apt to be out and about in the early evening and porcupines or foxes prefer to move later at night.
In addition to driving with “wide-viewing”, you can also help wildlife by recording what you see on roads and the locations where you see wildlife. Reporting wildlife on roads helps biologists and organization create, facilitate or even install solutions from crossing signs, to road underpasses. The Land Between and Turtle Guardians have launched a volunteer program specifically for watching for turtles on roads called “Road Researchers” and also have ways to report snakes on roads and other wildlife. You can volunteer as a Turtle Road Researcher here. Also, you can report your sighting on the Land Between website, or on The Land Between iNaturalist project page
For a great guide to identifying wildlife on roads see our partner, at EcoKare International’s video and new handbook for Citizen Scientists. EcoKare is a leading expert in wildlife underpasses and road permeability.
Watch our Safe Driving Video here