Road Block: Getting Animals Safely Across

Sometimes my mom helps turtles cross the road. She lives full-time at the Jersey Shore now (very strange) and the causeway that leads from the mainland to our island often has reptilian traffic, as the turtles cross from the bay to the marsh to lay eggs, eat stuff, do whatever turtles do. This means that sometimes they get smushed.

Not when my mom is around. She stops her car (this is a two-lane highway; not some backroad) and carries the turtles across the road to safety. She even knows several little-known turtle helping facts—most notably, that you always need to cross them in the direction they're headed, even if it seems like a bad decision. Otherwise, they'll just try again, and smush

Maybe that's why this story struck such a chord with me—Vermont is putting in an underpass for animals. From the Burlington Free Press:

The Monkton Conservation Commission announced Thursday that it has won a $150,000 state grant to install at least one, possibly two, culverts under the road so at least some amphibians, reptiles and small mammals can safely pass between uplands southeast of the road and an important swamp northwest of the crossing. 

When completed in 2011, the project will be the first wildlife-crossing retrofit of a Vermont highway.

I liked this part in particular:

A group of Monkton residents has monitored the swampside road crossing for nine springs, documenting the number of amphibian survivors and victims. 

“Quite often, we find it is 50-50,” said Steve Parren, a Monkton resident and wildlife biologist who has collected the data.

Salamanders are particularly susceptible to becoming roadkill because they winter in upland areas but must reach lowland swamps to spawn in the spring. Often, those two habitats are separated by roads. 

Teams of volunteers turn out on some back roads around the state on warm, wet spring nights to ferry migrating salamanders to safety. Vergennes Road is too busy to be safe for a phalanx of volunteers, so the Conservation Commission proposed to add culverts under the road.

This is the type of thing conservative politicians will mock as silly—a waste of money—but it's really important. We're not the only creatures on this planet.

One of my mom's favorite turtle-crossing stories happened last summer. She had picked one up by the shell and was moving it across the road (in the direction it had been headed, obvs) when a young guy in a red hotrod convertible pulled up, a confused look on his face. He asked her what she was doing, and she explained. He continued on. 

Once my mom was done with her shell game (zing!), she returned to her car and kept driving. About a mile down the road she spotted the young man's car pulled over on the shoulder—he was helping a turtle cross the road.