Ontario Nature advises drivers to be on alert for wildlife crossing the road as warmer spring weather approaches. Spring has high rates of road mortality involving reptiles as they hatch, mate, nest or seek food or warmth. Many of these animals that are killed by oncoming traffic are also at-risk species in Ontario.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions while keeping yourself safe:
- Always be alert and slow down when you see wildlife crossing signs.
- Keep a safe distance from other vehicles.
- Be especially aware of wildlife when driving near wetlands, rivers, lakes and ponds.
Road mortality is a leading cause of population decline in turtles. In Ontario, 7 of the 8 species of turtles are considered at risk. Given that turtles are long-lived species that don’t reach reproductive maturing until they are 8–25 years old, together with a low survival rate for hatchlings and juveniles, seemingly small increases in the mortality rates can have significant impacts on their populations.
Here are some tips to help keep Ontario’s turtles safe:
- Watch for what might look like a dark bump or an oil slick on the road.
- Help turtles cross the road, if it’s safe to do so. Move them in the direction they were heading.
- Take caution while driving during their nesting season, which runs between May and July.
- Report any turtle injuries or deaths to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre.
Snakes play a critical role in Ontario’s diverse ecosystems. Sadly, they are also victims of road mortality, especially during the spring. Many snakes such as the Massasauga rattlesnake, will use roads to warm their bodies on the sun-soaked asphalt.
Fear is one reason why people may avoid helping snakes. Some drivers will carefully attempt to swerve around a snake, while others will intentionally kill them. Overall, species at risk can account for up to 30% of all road mortalities involving Ontario’s snakes.
Overhead crossings or underpasses (eco-passages) provide a safe way for wildlife to cross roadways. Some eco-passages in Ontario are particularly beneficial for endangered snakes to pass. More of these structures as well as wildlife crossing signs will help significantly with reducing roadkill.
We must all do our part to keep Ontario’s wildlife safe, especially while driving.