VALENTINE, Neb. (AP) A wildlife refuge in northern Nebraska is in need of volunteers to fix its turtle fences, which have begun to fail.
Chain-link fences keeping turtles from crossing the road outside of the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge have been damaged by cars and erosion, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
Blanding’s turtles can live on the refuge’s 72,000 acres (29,000 hectares) of wetlands, lakes, ponds and prairie grass for up to 70 years. But the gaps in the fences put the reptiles at risk of becoming road kill.
“If someone were to hit the edge of a turtle shell, it can create a hockey puck effect and shoot out at oncoming traffic,” said Juancarlos Giese, the refuge’s manager.
The turtle fences were installed in 2001, when the state improved the highway dividing the refuge. It funnels turtles into underground culverts to stop them from crossing the road.
But some cars have hit parts of the fencing and erosion has undercut the barrier in some spots.
“They’re not real bad yet, but there are places the turtles are getting through,” said Mark Lindvall, who was the refuge’s manager when the fences were installed and now serves as president of the Sandhills Prairie Refuge Association.
Lindvall and the association are organizing a fence-fixing project on June 16 in Valentine. The state Department of Transportation and the refuge are providing materials. Organizers are calling on volunteers to bring pliers and shovels to help fix the fencing damage.
The association may organize a second work day if all of the fencing isn’t fixed on June 16, Lindvall said.
“It doesn’t just protect turtles,” said Giese. “It protects public safety as well.”