Project pro­tect­ing tur­tles

Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion in­stalling fenc­ing and nest­ing ma­te­rial along High­way 12 at Tud­hope Park

Packet & Times (Orillia) - - NEWS - AN­DREW PHILIPS

The prov­ince is do­ing what it can to pro­tect what are, ar­guably, Oril­lia’s old­est res­i­dents.

The Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion is cur­rently in­stalling a fence to try to pre­vent tur­tles from be­ing killed as they at­tempt to cross a busy stretch of High­way 12 near Tud­hope Park.

Lo­cal nat­u­ral­ist Bob Bowles is happy with the plan, not­ing tur­tles of­ten face an up­hill bat­tle as they strug­gle to sur­vive.

“It’s a good idea to in­stall that in that area since it will pre­vent the tur­tles from cross­ing,” Bowles said. “It’s a very busy area, es­pe­cially in the sum­mer time. This keeps them away from the road­way.”

The project now un­der­way in­cludes adding tur­tle fenc­ing and nest­ing ma­te­rial as well as ex­tend­ing a cul­vert to pro­vide pas­sage un­der the high­way. There will also be es­cape ramps to al­low tur­tles that find them­selves on the high­way side to move back to either Lake Sim­coe or the wet­land in the park. But aside from the chance of be­ing hit by a ve­hi­cle as they cross from the Lake Couch­ich­ing to the Lake Sim­coe side, tur­tles are bat­tling other fac­tors af­fect­ing their sur­vival, in­clud­ing be­ing sold by poach­ers on the black mar­ket, ac­cord­ing to Bowles.

“We have eight species of na­tive tur­tles in On­tario and seven are species at risk. That’s a high per­cent­age of tur­tles that are threat­ened. They need our help.”

In an at­tempt to ed­u­cate peo­ple in the area, Bowles started Kids for Tur­tles in 2006, a non-profit that raises aware­ness re­gard­ing the im­por­tance of tur­tles for the en­vi­ron­ment and car­ries out projects that aid in the prop­a­ga­tion of the species.

Bowles said the prov­ince has been fol­low­ing through on try­ing to bet­ter pro­tect wildlife by in­stalling fenc­ing along ma­jor high­ways, in­clud­ing work along High­way 400 North to pro­vide safe pas­sage for two other species con­sid­ered atrisk: The East­ern Foxs­nake and Mas­sas­auga rat­tlesnake.

Bowles said that while a tur­tle might live past 100, fe­males don’t be­gin lay­ing eggs un­til they reach their teenage years and even then those eggs are at risk of be­ing eaten by preda­tors such as rac­coons, skunks and foxes.

Added Bowles: “They have a lot of things work­ing against them.” an­drew­philips@live.ca

AN­DREW PHILIPS/SPE­CIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES Tur­tles have a friend in the On­tario govern­ment with the Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion in­stalling a fence to try to pre­vent the rep­tiles from cross­ing a busy stretch of High­way 12 near Tud­hope Park.

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