first_img Why did the turtle cross the road?If it lives near Stevens Point, Wis., it probably didn’t.A Testudine tunnel under Highway 66 offers safe passage for the shelled animals navigating between a local wetlands area and pond.The joint project—by the state departments of Transportation and Natural Resources, as well as the nearby University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus—was installed in 2016.Three years later, the unique underpass has saved the lives of dozens—maybe even hundreds—of turtles. It’s also made the busy thoroughfare safer for human drivers, too.Trafficked by logging trucks, commuters, and family cars, the 55-mph roadway was once a hotpot for turtle mortality, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. A busy intersection next to a hydroelectric dam was a particularly grim spot.A logging truck passes over the turtle underpass on Highway 66 in Wisconsin (via Rob Mentzer/WPR)“There are a lot of (traffic) conflicts without turtles being added to the mix,” biologist Pete Zani told WPR. “Now you add a 30-pound snapping turtle sitting in the middle of the roadway, not budging, and you have a problem.”A herpetologist and professor at UW-Stevens Point, Zani worked with biologists to help design the tunnel—plus a study that would track terrapin fatalities on the road.As of April, only 40 turtles have been killed on the road since 2016.“We went from a really high number,” Zani said, citing 66 turtle deaths in 2015 alone, “to something that in some years is barely reaching double digits.”An initial snag in the design meant the reptiles didn’t recognize the tunnel as a risk-free alternative to getting their kicks on Route 66; all they saw was a dark, uninviting hole.Fencing and a tunnel under Highway 66 in Wisconsin help turtles cross the road safely (via Rob Mentzer/WPR)So Zani added shiny aluminum flashing (often used for weatherproofing) at each entrance, as well as above-tunnel grates to provide extra sunlight.It worked: Turtles have been traveling under the road ever since.Unfortunately, word doesn’t seem to have spread about the crawl space. While some 30 percent of snapping turtles and 20 percent of painted turtles successfully made it through, those numbers haven’t changed year over year.“It doesn’t look like the turtles are learning the tunnel is the way to go,” Zani explained. “They either get it or they don’t.”Or maybe they’re just put off by the other critters frequenting the path, which reportedly also attracts rodents, house cats, mink, skunks, raccoons, and other animals.More on Geek.com:Sea Turtle With Spear Through Head Found in Florida National ParkOfficer Snaps Selfie With Turtle ‘Detained’ For Holding Up TrafficVeterinarians Build LEGO Wheelchair for Turtle Missing Both Back Legs Stay on target Officer Snaps Selfie With Turtle ‘Detained’ for Holding Up Traffic Veterinarians Build Lego Wheelchair for Turtle Missing Both Back Legs last_img

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