Road shoulders are very attractive nesting sites for turtles because they have the perfect mixture of sand/gravel for turtles to lay eggs while also providing excellent sun exposure. This, in combination with the fact that turtles have territories with multiple habitat sites that are kilometers large, means that turtles (in particular blanding’s, snapping and painted turtles) frequently cross roads between May and October. All roads are extremely hazardous obstacles for our slow-moving friends with road strikes being a major factor in province wide reductions in turtle populations!
To mitigate these effects, staff at The Land Between have been toiling all summer to build turtle underpass fencing by converting recycled steel food grade barrels into the physical barriers needed for our pilot project. These barrels are just high enough to prevent snapping turtles (great climbers) from scaling the barrier, and the arch shape also helps deter climbing. The half-pipe barrels will be tied to standard fencing on either side which bounds the wetland- and together the fencing ensures that turtles are safely directed through exiting culverts under the roadways.
The best thing about these barrels is that they form a type of “jump-out”, because they are back-filled with the earth, to be flush with the roadway, so that the entire underpass system does not trap wildlife on roads. If turkeys, turtles, and even snakes wander onto the road in this area, they are able to get off the road where the barrels are placed as convenient “jump outs”.
Our turtle underpass fencing has been installed in one of many high mortality turtle sites. Turtles use the same pathways year after year and cannot readily adjust to new territories or areas. Therefore we cannot simply “relocate” turtles. Also, turtles need to cross to parts of their territory that they revisit habitually and annually. For instance turtles will hibernate within 1 metre of where they did the year before, and these annual resting sites are different from their feeding, nesting and mating sites. Turtle Guardians have mapped over 1000 potential underpass sites in the Land Between region alone. If this model works, it will be an inexpensive and effective solution to transfer to other areas.
This year, this pilot is being undertaken as part of the Community Nominated Priority Places Program of Environment Canada and Climate Change, and in partnership with Eastern Georgian Bay Initiative, and Eco-Kare International (experts at wildlife road mortality mitigation).
Very exciting times!
Want to help us build more fencing to save precious turtles? Click here to donate!