By Rob Mentzer
The problem with the turtle underpass, at first, was that the turtles didn’t know it was a tunnel. Rather than a safe passage under the busy highway, turtles just saw a dark hole. It wasn’t very inviting, and few of them wanted to walk into it.
Biologist Pete Zani had the idea of adding shiny aluminum flashing at either end of the tunnel. The metal would reflect light that would show the turtles what they were looking at was, in fact, a way under the highway.
"From the turtle’s-eye view," Zani explained, "when they’re looking across they see sky, not dark green vegetation."
Zani and others installed the flashing, as well as grates above the tunnel on either side of the road to let some additional sunlight through. It worked. Turtles started to make their way under the road and have been using it ever since.
The tunnel, on the outskirts of Stevens Point, offers the creatures safe passage between a wetlands area and the Jordan Pond under the busy Highway 66. Installed in 2016, it’s the first of its kind in Wisconsin, a joint project of the state Department of Transportation, state Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
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