Turtle crossing gets the attention of West Kelowna RCMP, city officials | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Turtle crossing gets the attention of West Kelowna RCMP, city officials

A painted turtle is seen in this undated handout photo. Why did the turtle cross the road? It may sound like the opening of a joke, but the Nature Conservancy of Canada is urging motorists to help the slow-moving reptiles get to the other side.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Nature Conservancy of Canada
June 24, 2020 - 6:30 PM

It’s not often that you see city officials and RCMP cheered as they do things like survey the land and ticket speeders, but that’s exactly what happened in Rose Valley Monday.

“People were slowing down for the photo radar guy and honking and cheering for him — it was nice to see,” Wade Neukomm, a Rose Valley resident, said.

The City of West Kelowna employees he was walking around with got a similarly warm welcome.

The photo radar and the walkabout are all dedicated to one cause — the painted turtle. It’s something Neukomm, who grew up in the area, is passionate about and he’s had some reassurances that things will get better for the at-risk species that makes its home on a stretch of Westlake Road.

Recently, there’s been a bloodbath, with turtles on their annual nesting migration being run over by cars zipping up and down the busy road.

Longtime area residents have tried to act as stewards of the turtles, but the traffic is intense and it's become clear more had to be done than what’s currently there.

And Monday, it was.

“The city purchased two large digital reader boards, and they’ve become an effective tool for us,” Allen Fillion, General Manager of Engineering & Public Works said.

They’ve been used previously for Glenrosa traffic and along the shores of Okanagan Lake.

Yesterday, they were placed along Westlake Road, reminding people that the turtles were crossing.

“The turtles are at peak migration, so it was a good opportunity to raise awareness around the issues for the drivers on Westlake Road,” he said, adding that they do have large permanent signs that warn of the turtle's presence.

Fillion said city crews were also dispatched to the area yesterday, June 22, and today to make some repairs to fencing that leads to two culverts under Westlake Road.

The culverts are there so the turtles can travel under the road rather than over it, though it appears many aren’t taking that path so the city has plans to look into that as well.

“That road was upgraded in 2013 to 2014 and that’s when the culverts were put in for the turtles,” Fillion said. “Stantec did them, and now that it’s been four to five years, we’ve re-engaged Stantec to reassess to see if there’s anything else we can do.”

Stantec, he said, is looking to set up some trail cameras to observe the turtles and see how many are using the culverts, which despite oftentimes being clear of debris are being bypassed. If they do get filled, and someone notices, Fillion said he hopes they report it to the city.

The aim is to get the turtles onto a safe path, but there are challenges and he hopes area residents get on board with the efforts.

“We really want people to just drive with caution,” he said. “May and June are peak migration time. Obviously, the city is concerned like the residents are —anything we can do to help the situation we will do.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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