Cootes Drive fence will save turtles from deadly road crossing

The Hamilton Conservation Foundation is fundraising to build a fence to create a blockade that divert the turtles from a dangerous crossing of the four lane highway.

Hamilton Conservation Foundation still needs about $250 in donations

A snapping turtle lays eggs. (Hamilton Conservation Foundation)

There’s an armageddon happening on Cootes Dr. in Hamilton.

It's an armageddon between turtles and cars. And the Hamilton Conservation Foundation is working to prevent it

The road runs between Cootes Paradise and Spencer Creek, two areas of water the turtles move between to nest. But many don’t make it across. Between 2009 and 2012, 25 turtles have died trying to cross the road.

As of January 2013 only 1,000 turtles exist in the region, according to the Royal Botanical Gardens. The loss of one adult turtle can be devastating to the turtle community as a whole, according to the foundation’s website.

It’s very rare for turtles to get to the adult stage, but when they do they really reproduce.- Toby Tresidder, Hamilton Conservation Foundation

The Foundation is in the final days of a fundraising campaign to pay for a fence that would block the turtles from crossing the road, instead diverting the turtles to cross safely beneath a bridge to access their nesting beds in Spencer Creek.  The installation will begin at the end of April, to be in place for the breeding season when the turtles migrate to the creek.

In Hamilton there are six species of turtlesat least one of them extremely rare. The six are: snapping, midland painted, northern map, common musk, landing and red eared-slider. The common musk is locally endangered, with just five turtles left in the region. 

Turtles can live until the age of 70, and are not mature enough to breed until they are teenagers.

​Out of 14,000 eggs, only one survives to adulthood, said Toby Tresidder, administrative coordinator at Hamilton Conservation Foundation.

“It’s very rare for turtles to get to the adult stage, but when they do they really reproduce,” he said. “So when they get run over, they could still have 50 reproduction cycles left when they’ve died.”

The 500m silt fence will be installed along the South side of Cootes Drive.

“It’s fabric and wood, so it’s eco friendly,” said Tresidder.

“It’s what is recommended by the Ministry of Natural Resources as being able to exclude reptiles and amphibians without causing any problems for other types of flora or fauna in the area.”

Two years ago in 2012, the first part of the silt fence was installed from the Spencer Creek Bridge to Olympic Drive on the North side of Cootes Drive.

The foundation is attempting to raise $900 to build the next fence, this time on the Spencer Creek side. As of Friday morning, it had raised about $630, a number that doubled since Thursday afternoon.

“The campaign doesn't end until tomorrow. We don’t know if we’re going to hit there or not,” said Tresidder. “Hopefully we do.” 

To donate, visit the Hamilton Conservation Authority website.