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Experimental Tests of Road Passage Systems for Reducing Road Mortalities of Freshwater Turtles

Abstract
Roadways are a pervasive feature of northeastern landscapes and can be a significant source of mortality for turtles. Until recently, little has been known about the design requirements for successful under-road passages for turtles and other wildlife to move safely between bisected habitat patches. At outdoor laboratories, using a factorial experimental design, we examined movements in response to varying light levels, and barrier opacity for painted turtles (Chrysemys picta, n=833), Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii, n=49), and spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata, n=49). Additionally, we examined tunnel size, tunnel entrance design, and artificial lighting for painted turtles only. All three species responded poorly to a 0% available light treatment. As the amount of natural light transmitted through the tops of tunnels increased, successful completion of the trials increased. Furthermore, turtles generally moved at a slower rate when traveling along a translucent barrier, compared to an opaque one. Our results indicate the importance of designing road passage structures for freshwater turtles that provide adequate tunnel lighting in combination with specific entrance designs that meet the goals of the project.
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