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Slow … down … turtle … crossing — Islander installs signs

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Melanie Coronetz placing a sign on the Ram Island causeway last week.
Melanie Coronetz placing a sign on the Ram Island causeway last week.

On a cool, blustery morning last week, Melanie Coronetz made two additions to the first causeway on the way to Little Ram Island.

With marsh and bay on either side of the road, Ms. Coronetz placed signs that read: “Watch mowing and driving for turtles” along with a phone number of an animal rescue center to call if one is found injured.

According to Ms. Coronetz, a summer resident of 30 years, a lack of caution on drivers’ part leads to turtles being struck. To fix the problem, she contacted the town Highway Department for permission to place two new signs on the causeway to alert drivers.

Ms. Coronetz has a history of caring for animals, previously volunteering for the Southold animal shelter. She contacted a friend at the Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons in Jamesport for the signs, promising to inspect them from time to time, to ensure they don’t blow away or were vandalized.

The latter happened quicker than Ms. Coronetz had anticipated. Both signs had disappeared the day after they had been installed. Ms. Coronetz promptly filed a police report.

An officer found the signs, one in some bushes and the other on the beach of the causeway. Since she had drive the spikes at the bottom of the signs deeply into the ground to anchor them, it’s unlikely they were blown over, she said. But she went to work again and the warnings are back up.

The two double-sided signs will be in place until October 1, then taken down and put back up April 1.

“There are several more of these signs on the Island, but I felt we needed one or two on the causeway after I saw a turtle almost get run over,” Ms. Coronetz said.

The turtle was crossing the road, she said, when a car came around the bend. Neither seeing the turtle in the middle of the road nor Ms. Coronetz waving her arms to stop, the driver kept going.

Fortunately, the car passed safely with the turtle square between its tires

A lack of awareness is a large part of the problem, she said, since some visitors may not be aware of the wildlife prevalent on the Island. “Drivers should always be on the alert for turtles by looking left and right as they drive,” Ms. Coronetz said..

The most common breed in the area are box turtles, though sometimes a snapping turtle makes an appearance. Though the hardy shells of turtles make up a natural defense against predators, it doesn’t do much against a car rolling over it, Ms. Coronetz said.