Kootenay community acts to protect endangered turtles from being run over

·2 min read
A Western Painted turtle crossing the road in Revelstoke, B.C.  (Submitted by Steve Olsson - image credit)
A Western Painted turtle crossing the road in Revelstoke, B.C. (Submitted by Steve Olsson - image credit)

Locals in Revelstoke, B.C., are warning drivers to be cautious of endangered turtles that are trying to cross roads from one part of their habitat to another.

Western Painted Turtles, the only native fresh-water turtle left in B.C., can normally live up to 50 years. But residents are concerned that females are at risk while of being run over while crossing the road to lay eggs from late-May to early-June.

Steve Olsson, who is a resident in the Kootenay community, says he witnessed the aftermath of a turtle being hit by a passing vehicle along Airport Way near Red Devil Hill.

He says he posted a photo on social media after he saw one turtle trying to cross, hoping he could warn other drivers to slow down.

"I kind of put a warning on Facebook just that it could be trying to cross again later. Half an hour later, there was turtle remains squished out on the road," Olsson told Dominika Lirette on CBC's Daybreak South.

A turtle in the forest off Red Devil Hill in Revelstoke, B.C.
A turtle in the forest off Red Devil Hill in Revelstoke, B.C.(Submitted by Rebecca Scott )

Jade Harvey, a branch manager with Wildsight Revelstoke, says she is sad to see the endangered species at even more of a risk, especially since the city had signs put up in the area earlier this month to try and avoid the outcome.

"It was devastating and stressful. When you see any kind of animal in distress and particularly as a species at risk that we know is endangered," Harvey said.

Essential to ecosystem

Harvey says these turtles need to live in an "ecological niche," which is becoming harder and harder for them to find because of human development. She says they play an essential part in the province's ecosystem but have become critically endangered in the last several years.

"They help keep wetlands clean by eating dead plants and animals and assisting in the sort of breakdown of dead matter and to cycle nutrients back into the ecosystem," she said.

Harvey says her organization is working with the community and the city on ecological restoration, to continue to protect the endangered species.

"We're looking at how we can restore the habitat or really enhance it and to mitigate the concerns going forward as development continue," she said.

The city addressed the issue in a Facebook post that urged people to follow the signs posted in the area.

"Please let the turtles cross and do not pick them up or touch them for your own health and safety as well as protection of the animal," it wrote.

Harvey says she is optimistic that developments will continue to happen with the city to further protect the turtles.

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