Port Rowan, ON — Road mortality of turtles and snakes on the Long Point Causeway, considered one of the deadliest stretches of road for wildlife in North America, has been reduced by 56% over the past three years. This success can be credited to the installation of barrier fencing by the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project Committee and their effective campaign to increase awareness for animal safety on this 3.6 kilometer roadway.
In each of the past three summers, the LPCIP conducted weekly monitoring of road kill along the Causeway, recording the species, sex, approximate age and location of each dead animal found. A study of the three years of monitoring data found that road mortality of turtles and snakes had been reduced from 258 in 2008 to 113 in 2010. Better yet, the data revealed that road kill of Species at Risk reptiles dropped by more than 62 per cent over the three-year period.
“Our study confirms that positive steps can be taken to protect species that are especially vulnerable to road mortality,” said Paula Jongerden, chair of the LPCIP steering Committee. “It also shows that people will respond when asked to be more careful while driving on our roads.’
While monitoring the roadway, staff often observed drivers intentionally slowing and trying to avoid hitting animals and many stopping to carry the animals across the road. “People who take the trouble to help a harmless turtle cross the road safely are a great example to us all,” said Jongerden. At the same time, Jongerden urged drivers to be very cautious and mindful of traffic when stopping along the causeway.
The good news about reduced road mortality caps off a year of positive developments for the LPCIP which received funding commitments of $344,000 from Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program in 2010 and 2011 and another $57,579 this year from Ontario’s Species at Risk Stewardship Fund.
Armed with these funds, the LPCIP was able to engage Norfolk County’s support to undertake the necessary design, engineering and environmental assessment to install three specially-designed culverts, known as ecopassages, that would allow animals to pass safely under the roadway. One of the proposed culverts will be large enough to re-establish a natural waterway that once linked the Big Creek Marsh to the Inner Bay. These would be the first of as many as 11 ecopassages recommended in the Causeway Improvement Project Plan.
Norfolk County has retained S. Burnett & Associates of Orangeville to carry out the environmental assessment process this spring, which will include consultations with government agencies and interested groups as well as public information sessions. The company will also develop preliminary engineering designs for the ecopassages.
The new funding also enabled the LPCIP to replace all of the temporary silt fencing it had installed along the Causeway with much higher-quality fencing recommended by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation to keep reptiles and amphibians off roadways. More than $50,000 was spent to purchase and install the fencing that is expected to last from six to eight years. Other than the cost of the fencing material itself, all of these funds were spent in Norfolk County.
The LPCIP also launched a fundraising campaign to invite people in the local community to help pay for the installation and long-term maintenance of the fencing. More than $6,300 in donations has been received to date, plus another $834 raised at a silent auction held at the NatureFest event last summer. “We’d like to thank the many people who have generously donated to our fencing campaign or supported us through donations to or purchases at our silent auction,” said Jongerden.
Lastly, the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation provided a grant of $9,965 that will enable the LPCIP to plant nearly 1,000 native Carolinian trees and 1,500 shrubs along the Causeway this spring.