By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 8 2016
The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust’s turtle road mortality mitigation project is proving successful so much so that the tunnel along County Road 1 is being used as a demonstration site.
Sheila Ziman of the land trust and biologist Paul Heaven visited Algonquin Highlands council during a Nov. 3 meeting to give an update on the project.
“After three years of study we have the results” Heaven said.
Funded through the province’s Species at Risk Stewardship Fund and with assistance from partners including Haliburton County the project involved the construction of a barrier wall and tunnel to direct turtles under County Road 1 at a test site near Gelert.
Using sections of halved polyethylene pipe running along the ditch on either side of the road the barrier wall directs turtles into a culvert allowing them safe passage under the roadway.
The passageway which is a standard culvert was constructed in 2014 with this past summer marking the third and final season of observations at the site.
“No turtles were able to breach the wall” Heaven said.
A camera at the site also captured images of the successful passages of 60 turtles that used the culvert. The project also included volunteers making observations at control sites near Haliburton Village and Gooderham during the past three summers.
Five of the six species of turtle found in Haliburton County are on the species-at-risk list and while turtles tend to live a long time once they reach adulthood reaching adulthood can be an immense challenge.
Heaven recently gave a presentation on the project to Canadian Herpetological Society.
“All the turtle experts were absolutely blown away by this project” Ziman said. “They were all so impressed that this actually worked.”
Ziman said the Gelert project has since become a demonstration site for land developers and others.
“It’s now used as a model demonstration site for best practices” she said.
Reeve Carol Moffatt suggested that Heaven speak at a Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference.
“There’s a bigger picture here” Moffatt said. “It might be an idea to pitch this story to share with municipalities across Ontario.”