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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on October 05, 2000 at 16:06:19:
KITCHENER-WATERLOO RECORD (Ontario) 04 October 00 Nests created to stop turtles from crossing road to lay eggs (Terry Pender)
Waterloo: Snapping turtles crawl out of the water in the Laurel Creek Conservation Area to lay eggs in the spring along the gravel shoulders of busy roads only to be crushed by the vehicles of suburbanites crowding their natural habitat.
But that could all change as the City of Waterloo, the two school boards and the Grand River Conservation Authority band together and build some "snapping turtle nests" just off of Laurelwood Drive and Beaver Creek Road. These two stretches of roadway lie to the south and west of the Laurel Creek Reservoir, where the turtles live.
Diane Heaton, an outdoor education specialist with the Waterloo Region District School Board, is giving a group of Grades 5 and Grade 6 students from St. Michael Separate School brief directions as they stand along the side of Beaver Creek Road.
"What happens is that the snapping turtles in May and June come out of the water to lay their eggs. Some of them crawl up onto the road, and get hit by cars," she said to her assembled charges yesterday morning.
"What you are doing today is creating a turtle-nesting bed. That's what you are doing today, helping to save the turtles."
Some students shovelled the sand into buckets and wheelbarrows while others ferried the material into a small clearing nestled among towering cattails. There it was dumped into a three-by-five-metre rectangle along a path where conservationists have observed snapping turtles in the past. The whole idea is to convince the turtles to lay eggs in this safe spot, away from the roads.
"It's been done in London (Ontario) for the spiny soft shell turtles, which are an endangered species that breed along the banks of the Thames River," said Heaton of the turtle-nesting beds.
Raccoons and foxes are a common site along the edge of roads in the spring where they dig up the turtle eggs for an easy snack. Conservationists will keep a close watch on the turtle-nesting sites to see if predators become a problem.
"If we notice we don't get a lot of snappers then we will move to protect the nesting sites after the eggs are laid," Heaton said.
This project was organized by Peggy Bednarek, a City of Waterloo environmental technician, as part of Community Parks Week, which runs through Sunday.