Turtle crossing signs not stopping the slaughter of turtles on Kelowna Road - InfoNews

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Turtle crossing signs not stopping the slaughter of turtles on Kelowna Road

Western Painted Turtles enjoy the sunshine on a platform in Belgo Pond.
Image Credit: Brienne Welton
June 04, 2019 - 6:00 AM

KELOWNA - The Jurome family have spent decades living on Belgo Pond Farm and, all too often, see turtles being butchered by cars rushing by on Belgo Road, in the Rutland area of Kelowna.

“On the road, we see them all the time (in the spring),” Jaxon Jurome told iNFOnews.ca. “They nest up in the orchards and come quite far away from the pond. We’ve had to put up a turtle crossing sign on the road there. They get driven over. People don’t slow down.”

Jaxon Jurome and his family posted this sign on the pole in hopes of slowing traffic down on Belgo Road during turtle crossing season.
Jaxon Jurome and his family posted this sign on the pole in hopes of slowing traffic down on Belgo Road during turtle crossing season.
Image Credit: Brienne Welton

He believes they are Western Painted Turtles because of their distinctive red bellies.

Every spring he sees them crossing into the orchards and sees the carnage that all too often accompanies that crossing – both going up to nest and returning to the pond. He’s never seen baby turtles on the road, although he sees them in the pond.

What he doesn’t understand, is why they hike so far away from the safety of the pond into orchards that have birds of prey lurking around, not to mention the monstrous hulk of speeding vehicles.

The bright red undershell is typical of the Western Painted Turtle. Unfortunately, this one is dead.
The bright red undershell is typical of the Western Painted Turtle. Unfortunately, this one is dead.
Image Credit: Brienne Welton

That’s explained in some detail in The Reptiles of B.C., jointly published by the province and Thompson Rivers University.

It says the eggs are laid in June or July in carefully prepared nests.

“They look for open, south-facing sites with loose soil and without a lot of plants, roots, and rocks,” the report states. “These sites can be up to 150 metres away from the water, and females may have to cross roads to reach a good site.

“Once the eggs are laid, the female fills the nest with soil, compacting it with her feet and plastron, and then covering it with vegetation and debris.

“If predators do not find the nest, the hatchlings (baby turtles) break out of their eggs around September. Even though their shallow nests can reach –5 degrees C, most hatchlings stay in the nest until the following spring. Survival is quite low due to freezing and predation of both eggs and hatchlings.”

The turtles can grow to about 30 cm but, since the Okanagan is near the northern extreme of their territory (they live as far north as Golden), these turtles tend to be smaller than their southern cousins.

The article says the turtles are on the provincial blue list, with means “vulnerable to habitat loss, and susceptible to human and natural disturbances.”

Jurome, who is a realtor, said the Belgo Pond Farm is for sale and he would love for someone, like a government agency, to buy it as a park.

“I don’t know of any other significant wetlands in the Central Okanagan that have these turtles,” he said.

Many other turtles enjoy the safety of sunning surrounded by water.
Many other turtles enjoy the safety of sunning surrounded by water.
Image Credit: Brienne Welton

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 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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