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SL Twp. resident concerned about turtles

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:41 PM

In the past 10-14 days, Sue Rhem-Westhoff said she has seen 10 turtles killed on the south side of the bridge near land that was recently cleared by Spring Lake Township.

“For about the last two weeks, there's been carnage — great big ones and little ones,” Rhem-Westhoff said. “We see some every year because they're migrating to lay eggs, but this year has been unprecedented.”

On a recent afternoon, the carcasses of two large snapping turtles lay on the road shoulder immediately south of the bridge. Rhem-Westhoff said the turtles that she's seen squished on Leonard Road ranged from 4-inches to about a foot in diameter.

Although she said she loves the look of the newly cleared township-owned land on the west side of Leonard Road and is not blaming the township for the turtle deaths, Rhem-Westhoff said the mowers may have disrupted natural habitat and caused the turtles to flee.

“Where they used to hide is all mowed down,” she said.

During a normal spring, Rhem-Westhoff said she'll stop her car, get out and move two to three turtles to safety. This year, she said it's a blood-bath, and she's received calls from several other residents who voiced concerns about the dead turtles.

“I don't know how to make people slow down,” Rhem-Westhoff said. “Some people say signs don't work, but Ferrysburg has deer-crossing signs — and during high deer migration times, those signs will blink.”

She said the reminder is effective.

“People get used to seeing a sign year-round, but for it to blink during key migration times adds that extra cognitive reminder,” she said.

Rhem-Westhoff, who founded Defenders of Urban Wildlife several years ago to help protect the local deer population, noted there is a slight curve in the roadway on the south side of the Lloyd's Bayou Bridge and it may be difficult for motorists to spot the turtles before it is too late.

Read the complete story in Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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