Ontario Town’s $2.7 million Effort to Save Endangered Turtles Offers Global Lessons
A newly completed project in a remote corner of southwestern Ontario is being hailed as a landmark achievement in the protection of at-risk species and a model for other communities around the world seeking to reduce the number of animals killed on roads that run through fragile ecosystems.
For decades, the causeway linking Lake Erie’s Long Point peninsula with mainland Ontario was among the deadliest places in North America for threatened and endangered reptiles. Researchers estimate that, since 1979, as many as 10,000 animals per year – representing more than 100 species of reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds – were killed by traffic on this 3.6 km stretch of two-lane road.
The Long Point Causeway Improvement Project has changed all that, dramatically reducing the incidence of fatal interactions between vehicles and wildlife by installing special fencing and culverts, and through public awareness campaigns and signage.
“With most of the causeway now fully fenced, the average number of turtles venturing onto the road has dropped by 89 per cent and snake numbers are down 28 per cent,” said Chantel Markle, a McMaster University biologist who led a research project that analyzed historic and current road mortality data to evaluate the impact of the protection measures.