New Brunswick

CFB Gagetown working to save at-risk turtles

Canadian Forces Base Gagetown is counting wood turtles, an endangered species list in the U.S. and at risk species in Canada.

Canadian Forces Base Gagetown has joined with a U.S. conservation organization to track the wood turtle, which is on the endangered species list in the United States and is moving up the "at risk" species list in Canada.

Deanna McCullum, a biologist at the military training base, said the measures the base took after a previous study in 2003 seemed to be helping to stabilize the turtle population.

There are now about 75 to 100 turtles in a five-kilometre stretch of river by the base.

Nine years ago, students were mapping the habitat and the number of turtles and that information was turned over to the base. Since then, the information has changed some practices

McCullum said one of the major causes of mortality for the wood turtle is traffic, which is why construction crews on base take great care with vehicles.

CFB Gagetown staff are educated about wood turtles and asked to take extra caution when driving. (CBC)

"When there's a road grading operation, and it's during turtle nesting season, there should be someone travelling in front of the grader looking for turtles," she said.

"We're also protecting their habitat."

Civilians and soldiers on base are educated about the turtles and are asked to take extra caution when driving.

McCullum and three biology students are currently counting the turtles.

"We put notches on the shell so we can find out if we caught the turtle before," said student Laura West.

The base is now part of a study that takes in the entire range of the turtle — from Ontario to northern Virginia.

McCullum said she hopes the only thing that happens to a turtle when it crosses the road is that it reaches the other side.