Wildlife Road Watch Makes an Encouraging Debut

Photo caption and credit left: Erie Boulevard survey team, Cindy Presant; middle: Front Road survey team, Kari Gunson and right: Lauren Nightingale on bicycle, Kari Gunson……..

The Wildlife Road Watch (WRW) pilot event launched in the late spring of this year was a great success! Undertaken by the Road Ecology Working Group as part of the Long Point Walsingham Forest Priority Project, community volunteers accompanied leaders on road surveys mornings and evenings from June 15th – 18th. Surveys were selected along known reptile road-crossing hotspots that had previously been posted with awareness signage in the Long Point and Turkey Point area. These volunteers learned the most advisable methods to help these animals cross roads safely, and the ins and outs of recording and submitting wildlife on road observations.Our objective for this pilot project was to develop a coordinated community-science effort to help mitigate the negative impacts of roads on wildlife, and dedicated volunteers – called citizen scientists – are the bedrock of such an approach. Wildlife on-road observations documented by these citizen scientists let us know where and when to focus informed solutions to reduce motorist collisions with animals.

As a direct result of our first pilot, our volunteers and leaders were able to help at least 15 live turtles cross roads safely! In addition, we have foundational knowledge of a ‘turtle movement corridor’ across a road that bisects a marsh and upland nesting habitat. As next steps, we are working with local eco-tourism initiatives and our volunteers to protect mature females that lay eggs on road-sides and adjacent habitat. During our surveys we found many road-side predated nests, and it is important to ensure survival of eggs to hatchlings for safe release back to suitable habitat that may not otherwise be accessible for hatchlings.

Photo caption and credit left: John Everett helping Snapping Turtle hatchlings cross the road safely, Jan Everett; middle: Measuring the plastron of a male Painted Turtle carried safely off the road, Kari Gunson; right: Blanding’s Turtle plastron used to identify unique individuals, Kari Gunson.

The first year of WRW has been a testament to the power of a coordinated community effort for successful documentation of wildlife on road interactions. Our plans for following years are to build on the enthusiasm of our existing volunteers, recruit and train new volunteers, and implement and monitor mitigation solutions.

We welcome any observations of turtles or snakes you come across during your travels throughout Norfolk County. Turtle hatchlings and snakes are moving across roads until about October 15th. Our team will be conducting WRW surveys in early October and will send a note out to our list if you wish to accompany us. Text or email any observations (a photo is ideal) to our team at Contact Us.

A special thank-you to our wonderful volunteer citizen scientists to date. Looking forward to seeing everyone again in events to follow Please share with your friends and family and Subscribe to Wildlife on Roads to receive our updates.

Written by Lauren Nightingale and Kari Gunson

Kari Gunson
Kari Gunson

Kari Gunson, a practitioner in road ecology since 1999, initiated the 'Wildlife on Roads' program recently in response to a need to inspire and harness grassroots efforts for implementation of mitigation solutions.

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