By David Seburn
They say you can’t fight city hall. However, sometimes you can motivate the powers that be.
For some time now, it has been known that hatchling Snapping Turtles (officially listed as a species at risk) are killed on the road to the water filtration plant at the Britannia Conservation Area, or Mud Lake. (See Hatchling Snapping Turtles on the move! and Mud Lake turtle rescue.)
Female Snapping Turtles emerge from the lake every June to find good spots to lay their eggs. Although they may head in any direction, many travel north from the lake and lay their eggs in the gardens and open areas around the filtration plant. Every fall the eggs hatch and the tiny hatchlings head for the lake – or sometimes away from it.
Baby turtles emerging from nests close to the lake may only have to trek a few metres. Others must cross the road to make it to the lake and some fall onto it going in the wrong direction. Being hit by a car, even on a low-traffic road, is always a risk, but a larger problem was the road’s curb. Hatchlings could easily get onto the road by tumbling down from the curb on the north side of the road. But those that crossed safely faced a big problem: they were trapped on the road.
The curb was only about 14 cm tall, but from the viewpoint of a 3-cm-long hatchling, it was an insurmountable cliff (see photo above). Hatchlings could follow the curb and, maybe, find a gap, but this might be 25 m away. Many died from dehydration under the hot sun on the road – or were eaten.
The OFNC Conservation Committee has been working with the city on this issue since early 2015, and a solution has now been put in place. This fall, the city removed the vertical curbs along the south side of the road and replaced them with sloped curbs. The gradual slope means that, come next fall, hatchling Snapping Turtles will be able to cross the road and continue their trek to Mud Lake.
We commend the city for taking this issue seriously and taking action, and we thank all those who made this solution possible!