Slow turtles, fast cars

Photo: James Patterson, Ontario Nature

One of Rick Levick’s earliest memories of Long Point is seeing a snapping turtle split in half on the Long Point Causeway. He was five years old, peering over the backseat of his dad’s ’55 Chevy at the carnage. Such a sight has been a familiar one for visitors to Long Point since the road was built in the 1920s. For Levick, the memory has fuelled a passion to make the busy two-lane causeway safer for turtles and other wildlife.

Once rated the fourth-deadliest road for turtles in North America, the Long Point Causeway is fast becoming a model of sustainable development. Levick, a veteran Long Point cottager, started as a volunteer on the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project (LPCIP) and soon became the project’s coordinator. Since 2008, the group has installed 4.5 kilometres of barrier fencing that prevents reptiles, amphibians and small mammals from crossing the road. Additionally, the LPCIP has created three wildlife culverts (also known as eco-passages) of varying sizes and designs to permit animals’ natural patterns of movement. Besides providing safe passage for wildlife, these culverts have re-established the historical aquatic connections between Long Point Bay and Big Creek Marsh, between which the causeway runs.

In addition, this community-based project, to which the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve Foundation provides administrative and management support, has erected signs to alert drivers that wildlife crosses the causeway and that efforts are underway to improve their safety.

Since the installation of these wildlife culverts in 2012, LPCIP staff and volunteers have observed a range of animals using them, and cameras installed at culvert entrances have also caught critters in action. “It may take a couple of years for the majority of resident animals to discover the culverts, but many are already using them as we intended,” says Levick.

Spurred on by the success to date, LPCIP is seeking funding and environmental assessment approval to build more culverts. More information about this project can be found on the Long Point Causeway website: longpointcauseway.com.


 

Ontario NatureOntario Nature protects wild species and spaces through conservation, education and engagement. It is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters and 150 conservation groups across the province.