Spring and summer wildlife encounters

As you drive through Fermilab, please be cautious of wildlife. We have the privilege to work in an area that is rich in biodiversity. Slow down a little and enjoy the views. Wildlife you may see crossing or on roads include turtles, snakes, mammals and birds, among other wildlife.

Turtles are slow movers and cross roads for several reasons during warm months. In spring, adults move to find suitable nesting habitat, which sometimes requires crossing a road. They also may lay eggs in the gravel along a roadside. Turtles also venture out to expand territories or to move to a better habitat as a dry summer may cause other areas to become less suitable for their needs. As summer progresses, watch for hatchlings. If an adult crossed the road to lay eggs, those little ones need to cross roads in order to find wetlands. As they look for wetlands, they end up in some curious locations: parking lots, backyards, etc. If you see one, you can move it to a water location with natural vegetation and release it.

A painted turtle recently needed rescuing as it was crossing Pine Street from the reflection pond. Photo: Wally Levernier, Fermilab

Snakes are another animal often found on roads, especially on cool, sunny mornings. Because they are cold-blooded, they bask to warm their body temperature to prepare for the day. Unfortunately, this leaves them vulnerable to being hit by cars. People may not like snakes, but please do try to avoid them. They play an integral part of the ecosystem by hunting many rodent species.

Mammals are much more mobile than the aforementioned animals. Their mobility may cause a deer, coyote or mink to dart out onto the road the last minute if they are being chased, spooked or hunting something. There is also the possibility that it is a young animal curious about what is happening on the giant asphalt strip void of vegetation.

Birds can be vulnerable to vehicle strikes. Some birds feed on carrion and may sit on the edge of a road, eating a previous roadkill. This may sound disgusting, but it is needed ecological service. If you see this occurring, try to give the animals some extra room as they may not be paying attention. Young birds that have recently left the nest don’t fly well: They may end up in roads as they learn to fly, and it takes time for them to get back airborne.

Please stay alert to possible wildlife encounters during the warmer months. If you see an injured animal on road edges or elsewhere at Fermilab, please call Roads and Grounds at x3303. Please do not feed or give water to wildlife, injured or otherwise. If you have questions, please contact Wally Levernier at wleverni@fnal.gov.