By Jeff Helsdon
Staff Writer, Tillsonburg News
Long Point Causeway Improvement Committee paraded its successes Wednesday on improving the fifth deadliest section of road in the world for turtle mortality.
The committee, which has broad representation from a diversity of community groups, has been working to address the roadkill problem. It is also looking into ways to make the causeway safer for people and allowing water flow between the marsh and bay. Representatives of the many organizations involved were invited to the area on Wednesday to see progress to date.
Earlier this year, the committee installed 2.5 kilometres of barrier fencing along a section of causeway to stop turtles from crossing the road. Six nesting mounds were also installed for the turtles to lay eggs in and a sign warning of a wildlife crossing was installed.
Committee project co-ordinator Rick Levick said snapping turtles are near roads looking for places to lay eggs, not to cross it. There are numerous cases of snapping turtles laying eggs on the shoulder of the road. He believes the nesting mounds can help alleviate the problem.
Adam Wilson of Springford has been monitoring the road kill the past few months. Between July 1 and Sept. 19 he has documented 132 reptiles, 419 amphibians, 85 birds and 44 mammals killed. Among the 94 dead turtles were one Blanding’s turtle, which is a species at risk. One fox snake, which is also a species at risk, was also killed.
Wilson said the number of turtle deaths should not be taken lightly.
“They don’t reproduce quickly and take quite a few years to reach sexual maturity, so every turtle killed is significant,” he said.
Past results have found about 1,200 reptiles were killed during surveys in 1979, 1980, 1992 and 1993. Turtle kill in those years were 202, 160, 14 and 190.
“It appears the fence is keeping critters off the road,” Wilson said.
Committee chair Paula Jongerden said the reduced death toll could also be a combination of efforts to raise public awareness and weather.
“Unfortunately, the lower numbers could also be an indication of significant declines in some species’ populations due to the annual amount of roadkill year after year,” she said.
Radio telemetry studies of eight Blanding’s turtles done in the past found two of the eight – or 25 per cent – were hit on the road. If that number can be extrapolated to the entire population, Wilson said taking 25 per cent out of the population could be significant.
Norfolk County council approved a speed limit change on the causeway. It will see the speed limit 70km/h up to the Big Creek Bridge, it will then be 60km/h from the bridge to Sandboy Marina and then 50km/h from the Sandboy on.
Levick addressed what he called the misconception that the trees adjacent to the causeway help keep it in place. The long-term reconstruction would see some of the trees removed and new trees planted. Levick said when the causeway was constructed large boulders were laid down side-by-side and then gravel was put on top.
“The removal of the trees won’t cause the causeway to wash away,” he said.