Want to protect wildlife? Don't drive through the Ojibway Prairie Park Complex

Wildlife Preservation Canada has observed early October as the time of year when a spike in snake road mortality occurs.

Wildlife Preservation Canada recorded 116 snake deaths in less than 2 weeks near complex

Jonathan Choquette is the lead biologist for the Wildlife Preservation Canada. (Michael Hargreaves/CBC)

A biologist with Wildlife Preservation Canada has a suggestion for slowing Windsor's roadkill problem — avoid driving through the Ojibway Park Prairie Complex altogether.

Jonathan Choquette has been studying at-risk species on eight roads within and near the complex since 2010. He said the area is highly populated with wildlife like Butler's garter snakes and eastern fox snakes.

"Early October is the time of year when, over the last few years, we've recorded a spike in snake road mortality," said Choquette.

116 snakes dead in less than 2 weeks

In September of 2016, Choquette recorded 91 dead snakes that had been struck by traffic near the Ojibway Park Prairie Complex in one day. He said the mortality rate — so far — has been lower this year, but added there were 116 deaths recorded within a less-than-two-week span.

"Historically, the park system has been divided by busy roads. When snakes try to cross these roads to get to their hibernation sites, you end up with a lot of them getting killed on the road."

In 2016, Choquette recorded 91 dead snakes, including 30 classified as species-at-risk in one day on roads near Ojibway Prairie Complex. (Windsor-Essex Nature Sightings/Facebook)

Road mortality studies are done by a facilitator driving through an area in a car, riding a bike, or walking and making a tally of dead wildlife. Choquette said driving isn't the best way to go because a lot of animals are missed.

"You've just got to get out of your car. We're talking about baby Butler's garter snakes that are maybe five inches long," said Choquette, adding his main study tool is a bike.

He said walking would allow biologists to observe more wildlife, but the survey area stretches so far that they need to complete the tally in a reasonable amount of time.

"We try to handle them as little as possible if we don't have to. It's not fun to handle road mortality specimen, but we do have to remove them from the road or mark them so we don't double-count them," he said, adding the greatest number of species found dead is on Matchette Road.

Potential solutions

To remedy the roadkill problem, Wildlife Preservation Canada has installed barrier fencing on Malden Road — another high-mortality stretch.

"Wildlife [Preservation] Canada has installed 50 centimetres​ high silt fencing along two sections adjacent to the Ojibway Nature Reserve — 400 metres [long]. For three years every other day, we monitor the fencing to see what animals are kept off the road," said Choquette.

Choquette suggests the best way to preserve wildlife in the Ojibway Park Prairie Complex is to avoid driving through the area altogether. (Google Maps)

A long-term solution, he suggests, is to install "eco-passages" at Malden Road, Normandy Avenue and Matchette Road — creating a "wildlife corridor."

The best solution, he added, is for people to drive "less through the complex and go around it."

"There's no real need to drive right through a globally-rare ecosystem ... We only study the roads between May and October. Those are the most ideal times to avoid the area," he said, adding the extra minute of commuting is ultimately worth saving high amounts of wildlife.