It is this time of the year. The snappers and painted turtles of Lake Mendota are on their annual pilgrimage from the shallows of the University Bay marsh across the bike path and University Bay Drive to the edges of the Class of 1918 marsh and the gentle slopes of the new retention basin. It's time for the turtles to lay their eggs in the drier slopes of these areas, more protected from natural predators.
This journey is always precarious, and turtles get hurt and even smashed by cars. This year, the crossing was even more dangerous because the new metal turtle crossing signs, while attractive, weren't visible enough to drivers and because the new retention basin by Parking Lot 60 is surrounded by a chain link fence that was so close to the ground that turtles simply couldn't squeeze under it to reach the desirable more sandy slopes.
The first SOS call was raised by Mickey Schaefer, a UW alumni and teacher for 36 years, who bikes along Lakeshore Path almost every day and loves the wildlife there. On Friday afternoon she helped care for a turtle run over by a car; she got animal rescue involved, and she called me at home that the usual large sandwich board sign with the SLOW - Turtle Crossing was missing. By that time on Friday, the university was winding down for the weekend. But Gary Brown, Preserve Director, whom I contacted, got personally involved and confirmed that the current metal signs were too small to be seen.
Gisela Kutzbach and contributors