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Norfolk’s Operation Turtle Receives Humane Wildlife Stewardship Award

Public-private partnership has saved numerous aquatic turtles and other wild animals

The Humane Society of the United States presented a Humane Wildlife Stewardship Award to participants of Operation Turtle, a public-private partnership that has saved the lives of hundreds of aquatic turtles and other wild animals. Award recipients include the City of Norfolk, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek–Fort Story, Flint Marine Construction, Overhead Door Corporation and Norfolk resident Stephanie Downs.

Operation Turtle started in 2009 when Downs contacted officials from Norfolk, the Joint Expeditionary Base and The Humane Society of the United States about a wildlife-vehicle collision hotspot in Norfolk. This led to a public-private partnership to develop and implement a plan to provide turtles and other wildlife with safe passage from the base to Lake Whitehurst.

“This is the first known effort to help turtles navigate a spillway to return to their home lake,” said Stephanie Boyles Griffin, senior director of wildlife response, innovations and services for The HSUS. “The Humane Society of the United States was thrilled and inspired by the collaborative efforts to avert danger to the turtles and to motorists.”

The team of public and private partners worked together to prevent turtles from crossing the busy road by reinforcing the base’s existing fence with foot-high silt material, which blocked the turtles view of the lake and funneled them toward a road culvert that would allow them to safely travel underneath the road. A concrete ramp was installed allowing the turtles to climb up the spillway on the other side of the culvert and back into the lake.

Wildlife casualties have dropped from an estimated 150 each summer to less than 10 in the last two years.

“The city was pleased to collaborate with the community on such a unique project,” said Harry Kenyon, management services administrator for The City of Norfolk. “It was inspiring to see various groups from different perspectives working together to improve our city.”

For more information on Operation Turtle, visit humanesociety.org/turtlepatrol

Media Contact: Kaitlin Sanderson, 301-721-6463, ksanderson@humanesociety.org