Four-year project to reduce turtle mortality on roads

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Four-year project to reduce turtle mortality on roads

Deborah Powell

Local Journalism Initiative

No one likes to see squashed turtles on the road, but the sight can be all too common in our area, a flagship region for its large populations of turtles. To reduce road mortality, the Regional Council for Environment and Sustainable Development (CREDDO) in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Quebec’s Ministry of the Environment, Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks has launched a project to pinpoint “hotspots” on Outaouais roads; the goal is to introduce protection measures for turtles in those areas in the next four years.

The project is focused on three of the six turtle species found in our region: Blanding’s, Northern Map and Wood turtles, all identified as endangered or at risk.

CREDDO put out a call this spring asking for volunteers to “patrol” given roads; many answered the call. “We didn’t expect so much response as it usually doesn’t happen…So we’re really happy with the results,” said Steven Monteaud, CREDDO communications manager.

The work of volunteers will add to and help verify data on turtle mortality hotspots, the main goal of the first year of the project. Following that, the data will be studied and priority areas for action will be identified. Installation of “turtle warning” road signs and low barrier fences between wetlands and roads are two examples of possible actions. Fences are often coupled with creating passages under a road that can be used by turtles and other small wildlife. Paving road shoulders to discourage egg laying is another potential action to keep turtles away.

Turtle observations can also be submitted to carapace.ca and information about best practices for helping turtles on or near roads can be found on the site as well. The platform was developed by the Ottawa Valley office of the Nature Conservancy and first piloted in the Outaouais in 2016. Since then, it has extended to the rest of Quebec, with more than a thousand observations submitted each year.

Photo – The Wood turtle, like the Blanding’s turtle, may travel significant distances overland where they will likely come in contact with roadways and the risk of vehicular death.  (CREDDO)