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Ministry of Transportation installing fencing and nesting material along Highway 12 at Tudhope Park

Andrew Philips

By Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network

ANDREW PHILIPS/SPECIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES
Turtles have a friend in the Ontario government with the Ministry of Transportation installing a fence to try to prevent the reptiles from crossing a busy stretch of Highway 12 near Tudhope Park.

ANDREW PHILIPS/SPECIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES Turtles have a friend in the Ontario government with the Ministry of Transportation installing a fence to try to prevent the reptiles from crossing a busy stretch of Highway 12 near Tudhope Park.

The province is doing what it can to protect what are, arguably, Orillia's oldest residents.

The Ministry of Transportation is currently installing a fence to try to prevent turtles from being killed as they attempt to cross a busy stretch of Highway 12 near Tudhope Park.

Local naturalist Bob Bowles is happy with the plan, noting turtles often face an uphill battle as they struggle to survive.

"It's a good idea to install that in that area since it will prevent the turtles from crossing," Bowles said. "It's a very busy area, especially in the summer time. This keeps them away from the roadway."

The project now underway includes adding turtle fencing and nesting material as well as extending a culvert to provide passage under the highway. There will also be escape ramps to allow turtles that find themselves on the highway side to move back to either Lake Simcoe or the wetland in the park.

But aside from the chance of being hit by a vehicle as they cross from the Lake Couchiching to the Lake Simcoe side, turtles are battling other factors affecting their survival, including being sold by poachers on the black market, according to Bowles.

"We have eight species of native turtles in Ontario and seven are species at risk. That's a high percentage of turtles that are threatened. They need our help."

In an attempt to educate people in the area, Bowles started Kids for Turtles in 2006, a non-profit that raises awareness regarding the importance of turtles for the environment and carries out projects that aid in the propagation of the species.

Bowles said the province has been following through on trying to better protect wildlife by installing fencing along major highways, including work along Highway 400 North to provide safe passage for two other species considered at-risk: The Eastern Foxsnake and Massasauga rattlesnake.

Bowles said that while a turtle might live past 100, females don't begin laying eggs until they reach their teenage years and even then those eggs are at risk of being eaten by predators such as raccoons, skunks and foxes.

Added Bowles: "They have a lot of things working against them."

andrewphilips@live.ca



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