West Kelowna  

Turtles not using tunnels under Westlake Road, drivers urged to slow down

Turtle tunnels not used

The City of West Kelowna says a turtle crossing under Westlake Road isn’t being used by the reptiles at all, so is pleading with drivers to slow down in the area.

The painted turtles’ spring migration between two ponds straddling the roadway has in previous years resulted in a bloody mess of roadkill, so the city has hired a biologist to help with the issue.

General manager of engineering Allen Fillion says cameras installed at the culverts under the road, which were installed specifically for the turtles, show that “they are not using them at all.”

The city has now set aside funds to follow the biologist's recommendations to encourage the turtles to use the culverts and stay off the roadway. Negotiations, however, must take place with private landowners around fencing and will take time.

So in the interim, the city has installed new seasonal turtle crossing signs to encourage drivers to slow down to 30 km/h. The signs are designed to be activated only in the spring when the turtles are on the move.

“What we find in the traffic world, is when you put up signs and they just stay there, people tend to just tune them out,” Fillion said.

The city has also brought in a speed-reader sign to remind drivers of their current speed and have asked the RCMP for greater enforcement.

But getting drivers to actually slow down may not be simple. When Castanet visited the site this week, the vast majority of vehicles blew through the zone and past the digital speed-reader sign as it flashed at them at its maximum displayable speed of 60 km/h.

“A lot of the traffic on that road are people that live in that community, and hopefully, they should be aware of the issue. If we could just get them to slow down and really pay attention through there,” Fillion said.

He said the turtles are very visible on the roadway and can be avoided if a motorist is paying attention and is not speeding.

Fillion is hopeful a more permanent solution will be found and the work planned for later this year will send the turtles under the road rather than over.

“We are definitely aware of the issue and trying to do what we can,” Fillion added.

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