Animals

An Underpass For Turtles In Wisconsin Is Saving Their Lives

Should more cities consider installing these tunnels near their busiest roads?

Back in 2015, 66 turtles were killed crossing Highway 66 outside of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, as they tried to travel between a pond and a wetlands area that the roadway divided. Thankfully, the state’s Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point teamed up to create a solution.

In 2016, they installed a tunnel that ran under the highway and was meant to serve as a safe passage for turtles looking to cross the road, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. They’ve since made improvements such as installing a grate above the tunnel for more light and placing shiny aluminum at each end of the tunnel to let turtles know that there’s an opening on the other side. (A dark hole doesn’t serve as an inviting entrance for turtles.)

“From the turtle’s-eye view, when they’re looking across they see sky, not dark green vegetation,” biologist Pete Zani told Wisconsin Public Radio.

And now, a recent evaluation of the tunnel and turtle mortality rates in the area revealed that in the three years since the initial installation, a total of 40 turtles have been killed on the roadway. This is a significant decrease from the 66 that were killed in one year alone.

“We went from a really high number to something that in some years is barely reaching double digits,” Zani told Wisconsin Public Radio.

turtle photo
Getty Images | Mark Wilson

Other Cities Have Turtle Tunnels, Too

With results like these, it’s becoming more clear that the Wisconsin turtle tunnel really is working to help save turtles’ lives. So, should more cities consider installing these tunnels near their busiest roads?

Some already have. A city in Florida also added tunnels to a roadway to save turtles, and in Japan, a railway partnered with a wildlife park to make train tracks safer for the turtles that cross them.

Adobe

How To Help Turtles In The Road

Even if your city doesn’t have a tunnel installed to help turtles who may be crossing busy intersections, drivers can aid turtles and help get them on their way a little faster.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has some suggestions for how you can help turtles on the road. For instance, if the turtle is not a snapping turtle, you can simply pick it up and help it across the road. For larger snapping turtles, using something that’s not sharp to help nudge it in the direction it was already heading in will help it reach its destination in a more timely fashion.

The website also points out that turtles with crushed shells may not be dead. Apparently, due to their slow metabolisms, turtles can live in pain with crushed shells for days or even weeks. So, if you see an injured turtle, you may want to check to see if it is alive and get the turtle to a vet or animal shelter as quickly as possible, PETA says.

You can see PETA’s full guide to turtle safety on the organization’s website.

Here’s to helping keep those turtles safe out there!