This was to protect two endangered species – the Butler’s Gartersnake and the Eastern Foxsnake.
A team of as many as 15 have been collecting and monitoring the snakes during the construction period, having now gathered hundreds of them and implanted radio transmitters to track how they’ve coped with the 11 km construction project.
“There’s not really any studies to date anywhere in North America or otherwise that have been able to look at snake behaviour in this much detail relative to the installation of a road,” Megan Hazell, senior wildlife biologist with AMEC Foster Wheeler, a consultant to the Parkway project, told a recent public meeting at the Ojibway Nature Centre.
Crews found snakes in foundations of demolished houses, and they purposely created coverboards, under which snakes would gather, so they could more easily be relocated to new habitats.
Those snakes whose homes were immediately adjacent to the snake fence and deposited nearby outside the footprint kept to their new home because it was so close to their old one, Hazell said.
But snakes from the middle of the footprint felt more forlorn.
“Sometimes they would try to get back into the construction site,” she said, and used streams to get around fencing.
The new habiats included so-called hibernaculum where new shelters, made of debris like logs and brush, or split-up concrete, provided snake homes.
Meanwhile seven plants on the endangered list had to be protected.
Crews painstakingly pulled up 200,000 of them – as well as several thousand square metres of sod mats containing plants – and replanting them into 32 new sites adjacent to or near the Parkway.
“It was the first time that something like this had been done,” Season Snyder, senior plant ecologist with AMEC Foster Wheeler, said.
Snyder said all reports show the replanted species – along with new propagation (required under the permit), have seen plants like the Willowleaf Aster, Dense Blazing Star and Colicroot flourish.
Those replanted areas will merge with the Parkway footprint when the snake fencing soon comes down, integrating both land sites, which will have some of those same species planted among the new hiking and cycling trails to continue the Carolinian Tall Grass Prairie landscape
“We’re now going to start to integrate our restoration areas with our Parkway management,” Snyder said. “A lot of the same techniques we do in our restorative areas are going to be applied to the Parkway corridor.”