Give turtles a brake
It wasn't until I was almost upon it that I realized what the small object in the middle of the road was. Wincing, I checked the rear view mirror and exhaled in relief that I'd passed harmlessly over it.
Neck outstretched, placing one stumpy leg in front of the other, the snapping turtle was single-mindedly intent upon reaching the other side - oblivious to the stream of traffic thundering by.
With the coming of summer, all forms of automotive fun are approaching high gear. Classics are hauled out of the garage, track toys are tuned up, and a lot of us are looking forward to some kind of road trip.
So are the turtles.
Late spring and early summer, female turtles go walkabout, in their hunt for a safe spot to deposit their eggs.
Unfortunately, when cars and turtles meet - it usually isn't good news for the turtles.
While their natural homing instinct is nothing short of remarkable, unfortunately it's no match for the evolution of technology. Their exodus often takes them into the path of traffic - with tragic consequences.
Some species don't reproduce until they're at least 15 years old - and travelling several hundred yards to bury their clutch puts them in a very vulnerable position.
Road deaths are taking terrible tolls on the turtle population by killing breeding females.
Many species are already threatened by pollution and reduction of habitat due to vanishing wetlands. Juvenile turtles cope with many predators - the worst of which are raccoons, which can dig up and devour entire nests. Only about 1% of the hatchlings ever reach maturity - and if only half of these are female, it would take almost 200 eggs and a couple of decades to replace a female killed on the roadway.
Some communities, such as Cambridge in Ontario, have installed "eco-tunnels" - simple, low-tech culverts underneath newly constructed or repaired roadways to provide a safe, viable alternative for turtles and other small animals to cross safely. These sort of safe wildlife passages are popular in Europe, and at $2,200 each, could readily be instituted with a bit of advance planning.
Many communities have Turtle Trauma Centers, which, with the help of veterinarians and volunteers, rehabilitate injured turtles and reintroduce them back to the wild.
But we can all do our part to help ensure our turtle's survival. Slowing down on riverside roadways makes it easier to spot a crossing turtle.
If it's safe to do so - help the turtle on its way by moving it in the direction it was traveling - returning it back to the other side will probably only ensure that it stubbornly heads back into the roadway.
Report injured turtles to your Provincial Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers:
Enjoy your summer cruising this year, but remember: give the turtles a brake.