May 9, 2022 5:28 p.m.
A new joint effort aims to raise awareness of biodiversity in Chatham-Kent with a focus on Ontario’s at-risk turtles that can be found in your own backyard.
The Municipality of Chatham-Kent and the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority announced on Monday that they will be teaming up on an awareness campaign so residents know where species at risk may live and how public action can limit impacts on animals.
According to environmental scientist Kelly Johnson, more than 100 species listed as endangered, threatened or special concern on the species at risk list have been identified in Chatham-Kent.
Some of the species are mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and plants.
“Turtles are particularly exposed to traffic hazard when crossing roads and sometimes nesting along shoulders,” Johnson said. “Seven of Ontario’s eight turtle species at risk are found in Chatham-Kent.
Randall Van Wagner, Lands and Conservation Services Manager for the LTVCA, agreed that at-risk turtles are particularly at risk from human activity.
“All turtles are at risk in Ontario. Habitat loss is the main reason, but roadkill also plays an important role, as many turtles travel to find suitable nesting sites to lay their eggs and are susceptible to being hit on our roads,” said said Wagner. “Other reptiles such as snakes suffer a similar fate, especially in areas around wetlands like Erieau, Mitchell’s Bay, Prairie Siding and Shrewsbury where the Eastern Thresher Snake occurs.”
In collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the LTVCA will target aquatic species at risk in the region.
“Through science, research and field data, we take this information and work with landowners to naturally mitigate and restore areas that harbor species at risk,” Wagner said.
South Kent councilor Anthony Ceccacci, who raised the issue with council, said it is the municipality’s responsibility to help protect species at risk.
“If we want to be seen as a municipality that cares about the environment and species at risk, we need to do more than talk, we need to act,” Ceccacci said. “We have willing partners both in terms of organizations and concerned members of our community and we must do our part to act as good stewards of this beautiful part of the planet that we are blessed to call home. “