Several western painted turtles have been crushed as they cross Westlake Road. (Photo courtesy of Paige Erickson-McGee)

City of West Kelowna to install trail cams to monitor turtle crossing at Westlake Road

2020 has seen an increase in turtle mortality in the area

The City of West Kelowna is installing trail cameras on Westlake Road to keep track of how western painted turtles in the area behave.

This year has been particularly difficult for the turtles as many of them have been crushed or injured as they cross the roads between the two ponds by the road.

The city’s director of engineering and public works Allen Fillion said Westlake Road was upgraded from 2013 to 2014, with crews installing two culverts under the road surface meant to be the turtles’ crossing.

“May and June is always migrating season for them. We have signage in place and just a year ago, we put up an even bigger signage notifying drivers that it’s a turtle crossing and to drive with caution,” he said.

“But this year, we were seeing a bit more casualties than normal. So we’ve gone out and done a few things to help.”

Among those things, Fillion said, is a large digital sign along the road to let drivers know it’s a turtle crossing, as well as a review of the work done back in 2013-2014.

Fillion added they reconnected with the team that designed the upgrades to the roadway to help them assess the situation and set up the cameras to watch the turtles. But he said the main thing is for drivers, especially those who are unfamiliar to the area, to drive carefully and pay attention to the signage instead of just driving through.

Westlake Road resident Wade Neukomm said the turtles might not be using the underground crossing due to a few reasons, including debris blocking their way.

“The turtles instinctually migrate between the two ponds during their nesting period… but it looks like drainage from one side of the road has passed through down to the lower side so it’s created a bit of an erosion (in the culvert), so it’s potentially harder for them to get into it to make their way across, so then they end up taking the road,” he said.

“What I just said is speculation at this point, but it’s from observing what the situation is. We won’t know for sure until the city’s design team comes back with the data.”

He said it’s hard to say why there are so many more mortalities this year, but each incident is making residents concerned and angry.

“When you see an endangered species crushed on the side of the road in what seems to be an addressable problem, it fires a lot of people up.”

Westlake Road is an arterial road and is used by hundreds of people, Neukomm said, which is why traffic calming measures may be difficult to put in or enforce.

Fillion said the city is open to reducing speed in the area once the data comes back but in the meantime, he said drivers should keep their eyes open and drive with caution so as to avoid more turtle casualties.

READ: B.C. author speaks about discrimination against Indigenous peoples

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Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

City of West Kelowna

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