AUGUSTA, Maine -- It's spring and Maine's turtles are appearing along the highways. So, why did the turtle cross the road? Roads separate wetlands from nesting sites; and the sunny, gravel road shoulders attract nesting turtles.
We all know that that road mortality reduces turtles numbers, but did you know that the death of just a few individuals every year can lead to the long-term decline and possible extinction of our turtle populations such as the common snapping turtle, common musk turtle, painted turtle, spotted turtle, Blanding's turtle, and the Eastern box turtle.
The inherent population constraints faced by Maine's turtles -- long age to reproductive maturity and high nest mortality -- have historically been offset by long adult lifespans. For example, it may require decades for an adult female turtle to replace herself with a single offspring surviving to reproductive age. The loss of just a few breeding adult turtles every year to road kill has no natural precedent, and may rank among the most important factors threatening the extinction of turtles in Maine.
The Blandings turtle (endangered) and the spotted turtle (threatened) are two species particularly at risk from road kill. Recognizing this, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (MDIFW), the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT), and The Nature Conservancy are cooperating on a program to enlist volunteers to adopt key road segments throughout York County for monitoring road-crossing movements and road kill of rare and common turtles. Combined with survey data on known turtle wetlands in close proximity to roads, the volunteer road-monitoring effort will help MDIFW and MDOT identify specific road segments for turtle movements and mortality. Measures for mitigating road mortality will then be considered for various hotspot road segments including "turtle crossing" signage, seasonal press releases, barrier fencing, and wildlife overpasses.
In the early 1990s, MDIFW worked with University of Maine graduate student Lisa Joyal to complete a study of both Blanding's and spotted turtles in the Mt. Agamenticus area of southern York County. More than 80 turtles were marked or radio-tagged to gather information on nesting and hibernation sites, movements, and the types of wetlands used. Most significantly, her work demonstrated the importance of small pocket swamps and vernal pools as productive foraging and breeding habitats, with individual turtles often requiring multiple wetlands within a single activity area. Furthermore, the undeveloped upland forests and fields surrounding these wetlands provided habitat for nesting, estivating (a period of summer inactivity), and inter-wetland movements. MDIFW is committed to working with landowners and towns to help conserve remaining large blocks of habitat needed to sustain viable populations of these rare turtles. Southern Maine's landscape is rapidly developing, and one of the best remaining locations to achieve turtle conservation goals is on a 35,000-acre area surrounding Mt. Agamenticus in York County. MDIFW is working closely with the Mt. Agamenticus Conservation Coalition _ including The Nature Conservancy, local land trusts, water districts, and towns - to initiate conservation planning for turtles and other rare species in this area, one of the largest remaining contiguous coastal forest eco-systems between Acadia National Park and the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Funding for this work comes from federal Section 6, Loon Conservation Plate, and Chickadee Checkoff funds.
|Back to News||Home||Print This Story|