I think many people can relate to seeing a turtle cross the road, or seeing the dead body of a turtle laying in the road. You may have even saved a turtle’s life by helping him or her cross the road. Masses of turtles die each year from being hit by vehicles. Thankfully, one town in Wisconsin is doing something to stop this unnecessary massacre.
The place where Wisconsin State Highway 66 crosses the Plover River is known to be a very dangerous place for turtles. Thousands of turtles die each year as they attempt to get from one point to another. In 2015, 66 turtles were killed while trying to cross the road.
The Wisconsin Transportation Department decided to do something to prevent more turtle deaths. When the road needed resurfacing, they teamed up with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to find a solution for the turtles. The idea of a “turtle tunnel” was born.
Turtles Took Time To Figure The Tunnel Out
“Turtles took a bit to figure out what to do, but even from the outset, some turtles went right through the tunnel while others struggled to figure it out,” Pete Zani, herpetologist and associate professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, said.
“Post-installation improvements include a light-colored backdrop of sheet metal placed to reflect light into the tunnel as well as create a light-colored backdrop from the turtle-eye viewpoint,” Zani said. “The passage rate is still not perfect, but better. The excluders seem to allow wildlife to escape from the roadway so fewer animals are trapped in unsuitable locations.”
Future Improvements For Turtles
More turtle improvements can be made but it will cost a lot. “We considered enlarging the tunnel or installing lights, both of which would help,” said Pete. “But both ideas were rejected due to site logistics as well as a potential expense related to upkeep.”
Turtle deaths have taken a huge decline since the turtle tunnel has been built. Only 40 turtles have been killed on the highway since 2016. That is what makes this story a huge success. People came together with a plan, they initiated the plan and the results are fewer turtle deaths.