PennDOT employees in District 9 helped create a safer habitat for an endangered species of turtles in Huntingdon County. After a couple of nesting seasons, it's encouraging to say the turtles are thriving.
Early in 2020, employees at Huntingdon stockpile collaborated with students from Juniata College to help protect Northern Map Turtles, that create breeding areas where the Route 522 bypass runs through Mount Union. This region along the Juniata River is the largest breeding ground for these turtles in Pennsylvania.
Because dozens of the turtles were getting killed after the new bypass was built, environmental health and safety director for Juniata College, Roy Nagle, reached out to staff at the Huntingdon county office for assistance. Together, the PennDOT team, Nagle and his students team built artificial nesting mounds where reproducing females can safely lay eggs. The group marks each female, as well as all their offspring, so that they may be tracked over time. Since the start, hundreds of females have been marked, thousands have been recaptured, and as a result, thousands more new turtles have been released into the Juniata.
The county office crew say it felt good to be part of this kind of project. "My team took great interest and pride in the work and wanted to make sure everything was done right," says Al Huey, Assistant County Maintenance Manager, Huntingdon County.
Nagle and his students had a plaque created to recognize and appreciate the efforts of the PennDOT team. He hopes to present it to the Huntingdon office sometime this summer. Also, one of his students put together a turtle conservation video (also shown below) that highlights the success of the project. It acknowledges PennDOT as a partner and will be used by the Juniata College for educational purposes.