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Stop the turtle massacre on TX Hwy 190

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Posted by: jscrick at Thu Apr 7 05:09:41 2011  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by jscrick ]  

FROM Herpdigest Volume # 11 Issue # 16, a Change.Org petition:

7) Stop the turtle massacre on Texas Hwy 190!!

Fellow Texans and Wildlife Enthusiasts, 

We are only weeks away from another spring nesting season for freshwater turtles in Texas. We will soon find these turtles crossing highways and neighborhood streets looking for the perfect place to dig their nests. Unfortunately, in a shrinking and fragmented landscape, they rarely find that perfect place. In the process, many concerned citizens will stop their cars and try to help these turtles across roads, or swerve to keep from hitting them, putting their lives in danger as well. 

Right here in Texas, a 2 mile stretch of Hwy 190 crossing Jasper and Tyler counties is currently one of the most deadly roads for freshwater turtles in the world. Shockingly, right outside of a state park and
running through a wildlife management area, researchers have counted over 700 dead turtles on this stretch of road during the last 3 years. Starting any day now, hundreds more will be killed by passing motorists. A lucky few will be killed instantly; however many more will suffer for hours if not days as they slowly bleed to death as they bake on the hot asphalt. 

Countless photographs have been taken of female turtles that even after being struck by passing cars, continued crawling across the road with their organs and eggs spilling out and trailing behind them, still driven by their motherly instinct to produce offspring. These images are too gruesome and graphic to be shown to public audiences. 
Everyone believed that there was victory for these turtles after the highway department told the public that a wildlife barrier would be constructed this summer to prevent the turtles from accessing the road.
They are aware that this mortality puts the population of the turtles in the lake in jeopardy, and thereby the health of this recreational lake.

Additionally, this site also poses a serious public safety risk to
motorists. Texans demanded this fence be constructed back in August of 2010 when the public was alerted to this crisis. 
Something stinks in this story, and it's not just the dead turtles rotting alongside the highway! 
Shockingly, two weeks ago, the Texas Department of Transportation abruptly announced out of nowhere that they would not be building a turtle barrier at Steinhagen Lake. They are saying that the public is
not in favor of the fence due to the tough fiscal times, even though funds have already been allocated for this project.

Additionally, the claim that the public was not in favor of this fence is puzzling as a
local poll by a radio station in Woodville, Texas found a 60% approval rating for the fence among its listeners. Sadly, this fence and the preservation of the turtles in this area could actually bring in
economic opportunities which would greatly benefit many citizens and businesses of Tyler and Jasper County. 

Representatives and the Texas Department of Transportation officials know that Texans are overwhelmingly in favor of this project, but still refuse to build this fence. It is the proactive, economic, and morally responsible thing to do. We are the only state on the "Top 5" offender list for highest turtle road-related mortality that has not addressed the problem. 

The decline of turtle and tortoise populations worldwide has been cause for serious concern among conservationists over the last several decades. Turtles are among the world's most endangered vertebrates, with about half of the 300 plus species threatened with extinction. Additionally, in conjunction with the expansion of the nation's transportation network, aquatic turtle populations across the United States have become male-biased because so many female turtles are being hit on roadways. Turtles live very long lives, take a very long time to reach sexual maturity and newly hatched turtles have low survivorship. Because of this, turtle populations cannot effectively compensate for the loss of any additional unnatural adult mortality without suffering long term and catastrophic consequences. This is well documented in scientific journals and peer reviewed publications.

Cassidy Johnson, Houston, TX


I am writing to urge you to support the construction of a wildlife barrier on Hwy 190 crossing Steinhagen Lake in Jasper and Tyler counties. This is currently one of the highest ranked spots for vehicular mortality for freshwater turtles in North America .

Every other state in the Top 5 list, except for Texas, has taken action to protect turtles. Turtles are an important part of the ecosystem, and one of the most imperiled groups of animals on the planet. They keep in balance the health of this recreational reservoir, performing an invaluable ecological service to the local citizens and tourist that utilize this area for fishing, canoeing, and wildlife watching. The long term economic costs of not mitigating this problem now, with the addition of the potential costs incurred to state and individuals from motorist accidents, far outweigh the cost of the currently proposed Tx-DOT barrier. Mass scale turtle migration on this stretch poses a serious public safety concern. Motor vehicle accidents involving turtles and other wildlife are a serious and legitimate concern and people have been seriously injured or worse in other locations where you see a confluence of turtles and vehicular traffic.

I support taking every opportunity to protect Texas wildlife and urge you to support construction of a turtle barrier along this highway. Delay is short-sighted and inaction is not an option for this unsustainable mortality. More than seven hundred dead turtles have already been killed in the last three years on this short stretch of road, and hundreds more will perish in 2011 without your action. 

Thank you for your consideration.

To sign Go to
"As hard as I've tried, just can't NOT do this"
John Crickmer


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