It’s Turtle Time again on Norfolk’s Roads

Warm temperatures have brought our turtle friends out of their winter dormancy to bask on logs and forage along shorelines. Soon they will begin moving across local roads in search of nesting sites and summer habitats. Many amphibian and non-venomous snake species will also be on the move and seen on our roads.

That’s why the Road Ecology Working Group — part of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Priority Place conservation initiative — is launching some new initiatives this spring to help protect turtles and snakes from being accidentally hit by cars and trucks. Norfolk County’s Long Point Walsingham Forest was selected as a Priority Place because it is rich in biodiversity and has a caring community that wants to protect this vital treasure.

In partnership with Norfolk County and landowners, the Road Ecology Group will be installing new wildlife awareness signage along sections of local roads where high levels of turtle and snake vehicle collisions have been recorded. The signs will reduce vehicle collisions with wildlife by alerting drivers to watch for these animals on the road, especially in the spring and fall months.
The Group is gearing up to form a local network of volunteers who will record turtles and snake movements on roads and help protect them. Anyone interested in joining this effort should follow this link: wildlifeonroads.com

Protecting biodiversity is important. The reptiles of Norfolk County help to keep our local shoreline, marsh and upland ecosystems healthy by cleaning up wetlands, spreading native seeds, controlling pest populations and sustaining the food web.

Watch for wildlife on local roads this spring

Now that the first turtles are emerging from their winter naps, motorists should start watching for them crossing local roads. That’s the message of a postcard being mailed out this week to all households in Norfolk County by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) in support of its Long Point Walsingham Forest Priority Place (LPWF) conservation project.

The front of the postcard features a painting by Long Point artist Cindy Presant of a Species at Risk Blanding’s Turtle being carried across a road while a snake, frog and snapping turtle wait their turn. The image of the hands helping the turtle was inspired by a photo of Long Point turtle rescuer John Everett, taken by his wife, Jan.

“Local photographers and nature lovers have reported seeing turtles much earlier this year so we want to get the message out to watch for wildlife crossing roads to as many people in the community as possible”, said Mandy Karch of the Ontario Road Ecology Group (OREG). “Drivers should also be watching for snakes, and on the first warm rainy spring nights, frogs and salamanders crossing”. OREG is managing the working group addressing wildlife road mortality issues in the LPWF.

Drivers are encouraged to keep the postcard handy in their vehicles so they can refer to the following tips on safely helping wildlife seen on local roads:

  • Drive carefully in areas with wetlands and forests.
  • Stay safe. Check for on-coming traffic if you see an animal on the road. Never put yourself or other motorists in danger.
  • Let the animal cross on its own if it can do so safely.
  • If moving a turtle, take it in the direction it was headed.
  • Never pick a turtle up by the tail!
  • Don’t pick up adult Snapping Turtles unless you have experience. Use a car mat or stick to help it across.
  • Don’t take the animal somewhere new.

A handy car kit would include work gloves, a high visibility vest, hand sanitizer, pylons and a tote box.

The postcard also explains how to collect and record data on reptile and amphibian sightings on Norfolk County roads. Take a picture and report your sighting to the Wildlife on Roads in Ontario iNaturalist project. Your observations will help identify road mortality “hotspots” where action can be taken to mitigate these sites.

Reducing road mortality of local reptiles and amphibians is one of five priorities identified within the Long Point Walsingham Forest Priority Place. Other priorities include: eliminating invasive species such as Phragmites, restoring and protecting tallgrass prairie habitat, preserving forests and treed swamps, and working with local farmers on managing and maintaining marginal farmland for wildlife habitat.

For more information, please contact: Mandy Karch, ontarioroadecologygroup@gmail.com

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