Many of Ontario’s turtles are currently at risk and categorized as Endangered, Threatened, or species of Special Concern. With the fragmentation of our landscape by an ever expanding network of roads, road mortality has become one of the greatest threats to Ontario’s turtles, and is prominent in the County of Haliburton. This threat is not unique to turtles as many species are threatened by the road network. Much work has been done on mitigating the impacts of roads on our wildlife communities; ranging from the installation of signage to the construction of vegetated road overpasses for larger mammals such as bears and wolves. In 2013 the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust (HHLT) and partners investigated road mitigation with a particular focus on turtles and proposed a design tailored to the County of Haliburton for our turtle community.
Specifically, the design consisted of a suitably sized culvert to act as an underpass and a drift fence to guide the turtles through the underpass.
Although the HHLT is excited about the underpass and drift fence design, how effective this mitigation will be remains unknown as the combination of the turtle community, environmental conditions and design are unique. Only through scientific analysis of how turtles respond to the drift fence/underpass will we understand whether they are effective in reducing the number of turtles being killed on the roads each year. To this end, the HHLT and partners have initiated a 3-year study to gather the data required for such an analysis.
In 2014, the first year of the study, we will monitor candidate sites during the months of May and June, when turtle activity is at its peak. Candidate sites will be selected based on historical observations, habitat and suitability for mitigation. Based on the data collected in year 1, a test site and two control sites will be selected and the underpass/drift fence installed at the test site only. The control and test sites will then be monitored for two additional years, to determine the effectiveness of these mitigation tools. As you can imagine, this project requires a tremendous amount of effort and community support in order to be successful and volunteer participation is critical!!
An enormous thank you goes out to all the more than 100 volunteers who have helped out on this important project!
To view a 10-minute video on the problem of turtles and roads, with a description of what we are proposing to do about it, see this link: Turtle Road Mortality Video
Read on to learn about Phase II of the project.
To read our Turtle Times newsletter, click here.
This project is funded by the Ministry of Natural Resources Species at Risk Stewardship Fund 2014-15. Our partners include U-Links Centre for Community-Based Research and Glenside Ecological Services Ltd.