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ON Press: Are you a reptile killer?

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Fri Aug 3 09:39:28 2007  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  

WINDSOR STAR (Ontario) 03 August 07 Are you a reptile killer?; Some drivers go out of their way to hit them, study finds (Sharon Hill)
All that roadkill isn't just accidental -- an Ontario study has found almost three per cent of drivers, the majority of them men, swerve to intentionally steamroll snakes and turtles on the road.
The study by three Ontario researchers published in the May edition of the Human Dimensions of Wildlife journal found that some drivers ran over reptiles on purpose on a road near Long Point.
This doesn't mean that 2.7 per cent of roadkill is intentionally hit. It means 2.7 per cent of drivers who see reptiles on the road go out of their way to run them over.
"Two point seven per cent of the people out there is a lot and especially when those 2.7 per cent of people probably do it often or whenever they get the chance," Scott Petrie, one the researchers, said Thursday.
The study could be the first to show reptile roadkill isn't just accidental, said Petrie, research director of the Long Point Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Fund.
The study was conducted in 2005, led by Paul Ashley, a biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service. Petrie said Ashley has calculated that the causeway from Port Rowan to Long Point, between two wetlands, is the fifth-deadliest road for turtles in the world.
To test Ashley's suspicions that some of the roadkill was no mistake, the researchers alternated between placing a plastic turtle, a rubber snake, a white cup and a grease control line on the centre of the road.
The grease line helped researchers know how many drivers passed over the centre line by mistake.
Cars following close behind other cars weren't counted in case drivers couldn't see the objects. The researchers used data from more than 1,900 vehicles.
The fake snake fared the worst. "Apparently there were some people that sped up and rode the centre line to run over the snake," Petrie said.
The journal article said "drivers were 2.4 times more likely to hit the snake than the control and 1.9 times more likely to hit the snake than the cup."
For the turtle, drivers were 1.7 times more likely to hit it than the control and 1.4 times more likely to hit the turtle than the cup.
Men were more likely than female drivers to hit any of the objects on the road. "Probably testosterone, I don't know," said Petrie.
Some drivers tried to rescue what looked like an Eastern fox snake and a small snapping turtle before realizing they were fakes.
Petrie said he was disappointed that some people who stopped really just wanted to pick up the reptiles and take them home.
Drivers may run over wildlife for kicks and others may think they're doing everyone a favour by killing a snake since they aren't well liked, he said. But reptile roadkills are a problem because reptiles are declining, and turtles, unlike raccoons, take longer to become sexually mature, meaning they're killed on the road before they can reproduce.
"There's lots of rare and endangered reptile species in the province, so you never know what you're running over and you shouldn't run over anything."
Drivers should watch the road and slow down to avoid hitting wildlife. He suggests being very careful if you try to get the reptile across the road and always send the reptile in the direction it was headed.
The study suggests not building roads between prime reptile habitat or building underpasses or barriers to keep snakes and turtles off the pavement.

(Paperboy Note: For those of you that were unable to make the 20-20 March 07 Roads & Ecopassages Symposium hosted by the Toronto Zoo, there was a truly excellent presentation by the study group. The study procedures, controls and anecdotes gave you an real feeling why some people seem to go out of their way to hit herps Ė with young males being involved in the majority of incidents. The best of the stories were those involving how to calm the herp-saving public after they got out of their cars onto a road to save Ö a rubber snake! )
Are you a reptile killer?; Some drivers go out of their way to hit them, study finds


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