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County builds tunnel for turtles to cross road, a Turtle Tunnel

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Minn. (John Lomax) -- How does a turtle cross the road?
In a unique tunnel built especially for them!  As county road projects go, this one was one of a kind in Minnesota.  This special culvert system, imported from Germany, was designed specifically as a wildlife passage for crawling reptiles.
In other words, a turtle tunnel.

This experiment wasn't just about helping migrating turtles, it was also about traffic safety for would-be reptile rescuers.

Peter Mott of Washington County Parks explains, "Jumping out of their cars on these busy roads and trying to assist these turtles across the road."
The tunnel was built higher than a normal drainage culvert, to keep it dry.  And it has skylights, or slots, that are even with the road surface to make it more tempting for cautious creatures.

"The light is spread all the way through the tunnel so that turtle has a sense of something on the other side," said Mott.
They picked a certain section of Washington County Highway 4 because it had a high mortality rate for turtles.  It was where they cross from their wintering area in Big Marine Lake to summer nesting areas.

Washington County paid for the project with grants from the DNR, the UofM and the Minnesota Herpetological Society.  The 50,000 dollar price tag included follow-up research to see if the system truly reduces turtle mortality in the area.  A long fence will also be put up on either side of the highway to funnel the turtle traffic.

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