turtle crossing controversy

I had thought to write about something else this morning, but my original post was pre-empted by this one as it seems more timely. Yes, this is a recycled photo from last year’s post about turtle crossings. I briefly considered using one of my photos of crushed turtles from my Ribbon of Death roadkilled animal online gallery, but thought better of it as it might be a bit of a shocker to anyone stumbling upon my blog. So, you get the “nice” turtle photo instead of the reality. As turtle photography goes, the truth of the matter is that I get a hell of a lot more opportunities to photograph dead turtles than live ones — in fact, I’d say the odds are running somewhere about 3-to-1 in favour of all of the dead turtles seen along highways.

In any case, what has prompted this post?

Last night, Matt Ellerbeck posted a notice to the NatureList (Eastern Ontario Natural History list-serve) about a recent controversy concerning turtle crossing signs. It seems that the city council of Peterborough, a small city lying west of my region, has decided that turtle crossing signs are a “bad thing” and have to go. A bit of history here. In 2001, a group of children calling themselves Kids 4 Turtles, raised $4,000 to fund the purchasing of turtle crossing signs to be placed at turtle crossing hotspots around the county. Apparently, at the time, the council applauded this initiative and agreed to erect the sign. Now, in an about face, the council has decided that replacement of missing or stolen signs is a nuisance, and that the signs somehow confuse some drivers (sounds like a pretty lame excuse to me). You can read more about the story on this page from the Peterborough Examiner.

An online petition has been set up by a member of the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, a volunteer organization that cares for and rehabilitates turtles that are frequently victims of encounters with vehicles. I signed the petition and left a comment last night, and urge those of you who care about wildlife to do the same. It just takes a few moments and the more names added to the list, the better. Perhaps the Peterborough city council members will get the message that they are making the *wrong* decision.

In reading through the comments left by others who have signed the petition, it was mentioned that the Kids 4 Turtles actually received an award from Peterborough county for doing something good for the local environment. Ironic to think that, 6 years later, the council would decide that this was an unworthy initiative and pull the signs down. It’s also interesting that one commenter also mentioned that the Toronto Zoo, which recently organized the 3-day Roads and Ecopassages Forum, during which turtle conservation was specifically addressed (click on any of the day links on this page, although Tuesday, March 20th seems to have the most presentations on turtles) – has said that it would replace stolen signs. I have yet to confirm that piece of information, but if true, one must really wonder why the council would make such a wrong-headed decision.

For those unfamiliar with the Peterborough area, it is home to 6 species of turtles, 4 of which are listed on the COSEWIC (Committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada) Species at Risk. If you read my post on turtle crossings from last year you’ll know that, when it comes to survival of species, every single creature counts, especially in the case of those turtles such as the Blandings (Emydoidea blandingi) that take many years to reach reproductive age.

Anyhow, do consider signing this petition in order to send a strong message to Peterborough city council to reconsider its ill-informed decision.

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14 Responses to “turtle crossing controversy”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    The signs are a nuisance? Drivers are confused? These are definitely lame excuses. I’d like to know the real reasons why these signs are not being replaced. I’ll go sign the petition, as long as they don’t mind a US citizen coming by.

  2. Dave Says:

    Over the years I’ve had the chance help save a number of turtles from getting run over. I always hope I put them on the side of the road they wanted to go to! (50/50 chance I guess). But like you the number victims I’ve seen greatly exceeds the number of rescues I’ve made.

    Good luck with the campaign, hopefully the local govt. folks will think on this a little harder!

  3. bev Says:

    robin – Call me a cynic, but the cited rationale makes me highly suspicious that there’s far more to this issue than meets the eye. I can think of at least a couple of “other” reasons why someone might want these signs removed. Re: the petition – I don’t think it matters if people are from out of the area. Peterborough is known as a very popular outdoors recreation area where people from across North America spend their vacations, so it’s probably good for city council to learn that there are more than “local eyes” paying attention to this decision.

    Dave – One way or the other, I think it’s good to move turtles off of the road if it’s clear they aren’t going to make it on their own — and of course, each person should be very cautious about their own safety when moving turtles. If possible, we move turtles fairly if we see them in the middle of a highway where their chances of making it to the other side are pretty slim. Re: the campaign. If enough people make their voices heard on this, I’ll be quite surprised if Peterborough city council doesn’t rethink it’s position.

  4. Peter Says:

    We spent the weekend at Kejimkujik National Park (Nova Scotia), where there are lots of turtle crossing signs, and temporary rubber speed-bumps are drilled into the pavement to slow everyone down in known nesting areas.

    I was a frequent visitor to Peterborough in the past few years, and I noticed the signs there, and it did make a difference. I dearly hope the article in their paper along with posts like this, and the petition will create some needed awareness, and they will reinstate the program.

  5. Dave Says:

    I had a humorous encounter with a small snapping turtle a couple years back. He was on a busy two lane road, and I had to use a stick to nudge over to the shoulder. He fought every step of the way…some gratitude! ;)

    I signed the petition, even though I’m a foreigner!

  6. John Says:

    The excuses are just that…excuses. What idiocy! I will most definitely sign the petitions…I hope the fact that I live in the same state that allowed George Bush to escape to Washington will not be held against me.

  7. bev Says:

    First — thanks everyone for signing the petition and leaving comments. I think it’s good to see comments from both near and far. I hope it will do some good.

    Peter – I’m sure Kejimkujik N.P. is being very careful with the turtle population as they have a very active Blandings Turtle recovery program going on there. Good to hear that they have speed bumps and everything. When we were there last year, they had a lot of signs telling motorists to drive slowly throughout the park.
    How was the camping at Kejimkujik? We’ve thought about camping there sometime, but figured it might be busy in mid-summer. Are the tenting campsites fairly private, or is it kind fo open? Any recommendations for areas of the park to camp in if one is camping with a tent? Did you do much hiking on the trails? Which trails? We hiked the one with the ancient hemlocks last year, and also the gold mine trail and a bit of one of the others.

    Dave – Snapping turtles can be a bit of a challenge to move off the road. In summer, we often keep a big sheet of plastic in the back of the van and cover the turtle with that and then grab the shell at about mid-point and carry the turtle off the road — or we often have a snow shovel in the truck and get that under the turtle and skid it off the pavement. Herding with a stick sounds like a good plan too. The main thing is to stay clear of those jaws! Thanks for signing the petition — I think it’s nice to see some signatures from out of the area.

    John – I think the excuses don’t make any sense at all. I hope Peterborough residents get to the bottom of this crazy thing. At least there are already close to 500 signatures — and many by Peterborough residents, so that’s going to make the council look pretty darned bad. And no, I don’t think anyone is going to hold you responsible for GB! (-:

  8. Wayne Says:

    Very good, Bev. I was number 473.

    What struck me was the slap in the face to kids who had recognized a problem and undertaken the responsibilities of thoughtful citizens. What a terrible thing to tell children who might be encouraged to get involved.

    Like Robin, I suspect there’s more to the issue, but I doubt that whatever lurks darkly in the minds of the council is anything not deserving of scorn.

  9. Wayne Says:

    Excuse me, like *BEV* I suspect there’s more to the issue. But I’d bet that Robin thinks so too ;-)

  10. bev Says:

    Wayne – Thanks for signing the petition. It was nice to see the numbers shooting up yesterday – and lots of good comments being posted by those who have been signing. I very much agree that the council’s decision to remove the signs is a slap in the face to the kids who raised the money to put up the signs. In my opinion, the move is ignorant and disrespectful toward the citizens of the region. Glad to see that so many people have made a point of commenting on that. I’ll try to follow the situation and post something here later on.

  11. Michael Says:

    Thanks for blogging on this issue. I live in the county and talked to some of the current county council members as they tried to drum up votes during the last election. All touted grandiose economic development goals but not one could state a coherent, let alone principled, position on safe-guarding our natural environment.

    Your photos are brilliant! What’s your set-up?



  12. bev Says:

    Michael – I think it’s good to try to address some of the controversies along with the nature notes. If all of us don’t do a better job of taking care of nature, I doubt there will be much left in another decade or so. I’m not too surprised to hear that about the council members. It’s an unfortunate fact that a large percentage of the people attracted to running for election in municipal politics have their own agendas to push.
    Regarding my photos — Thanks! I use two different Nikons — the older CP4500, and the more recent CP8800. I use the CP4500 for spiders and smaller insects, and the CP8800 for somewhat larger insects — it can still do small ones too, but I can’t get in quite so close for interesting angles as I can with the older CP4500.

  13. Crystal Lake Says:

    Oh, man..you know, that road of death thing reminded me of a dead turtle I saw on my jog last year. The road runs right next to a swamp, and it was the biggest turtle I’ve seen in real life (not counting zoos). For about three or four days, it was out there like that with the intestines splayed out.

    In my runs, it’s quite routine to see animals as roadkill even when the roads are little more than laneways. Mostly, they are small mammals like chipmunks and such..but occasionally there is a larger dead animal.

    I’m just an animal lover in general, and whenever I see roadkill the first thought that crosses my mind is “Oh, poor [animal]”

    I used to live around the Peterborough area and still visit from time to time and remember one turtle crossing. I’ve never heard any complaints that the turtle crossing was “confusing”.

    If all of us don’t do a better job of taking care of nature, I doubt there will be much left in another decade or so.

    I think it’s important that we take care of nature for posterity as well, but a better reason for conservation that will appeal to all people is the fact that we, too, are a part of the natural environment. You screw around with it too much, and, because the natural environment demands some form of balance, it will come right back to us to haunt us later.

  14. KerrdeLune (Cate) Says:

    Bev, as usual we moved a lot of turtle mamas out of the roads in Lanark this year, but there were a lot of roadkills too, and finding them made me feel just sick every time. I’d see a turtle ahead in the road, screech to a halt and run over with my turtle stick, only to discover when I arrived that the turtle had already been squashed by a speeding motorist. Most of the time, the tragedy could have been averted.