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,Death toll: In one day, 91 snakes were killed.

Traffic threatens snakes

Jonathan Choquette is alarmed by how much time he spends counting dead snakes. Since 2010, Choquette, a conservation biologist, has been documenting reptile road mortality near the Ojibway Prairie Complex (OPC) in Windsor to determine the impact vehicles have on the site?s snake and turtle populations. On one very bad day last October he counted 91 dead snakes, nearly one-third of them endangered or at-risk species. ?I had to stay out until dark because I saw so many of them,? he says. The 244-hectare OPC is a haven for rare snake species, including massasauga rattlesnakes and eastern foxsnakes. But increasing car traffic in the area is killing more and more of these reptiles. Choquette is particularly concerned that a growing proportion of the dead snakes he finds are species at risk ? on average, they comprise 20 percent of the dead snakes, but recently the proportion has reached as high as 30 percent. Snakes are often run over while crossing roads en route to their hibernation dens or while basking on asphalt that has been warmed by the sun. Fall evenings are a particularly dangerous time for them, because at that time of day they are harder for drivers to see and more drivers are on the roads. Members of the Essex County Field Naturalists? Club (ECFNC) hope the City of Windsor will help address the issue by closing a 300-metre stretch of Matchette Road near the OPC to cars. They worry that the planned construction of a big-box retail outlet will attract more drivers to the area. ?More cars on the road will likely mean more dead snakes,? says ECFNC president Jesse Gardner-Costa. Matchette Road is already very busy; thousands of vehicles travel on it each day. ?Snakes are an integral part of the Ojibway prairie,? says Gardner- Costa. ?It?s imperative that we do what we can to protect them.? ?Lisa Richardson PHOTOS (TOP LEFT) JOE CROWLEY; (TOP RIGHT) JAY COSSEY 10 ON NATURE SPRING 2017 ONNATUREMAGAZINE.COM

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