Wildlife in Dakota County are on the move — safely.
An effort to increase the survival rate of turtles and other small animals that travel near Lebanon Hills Regional Park across Cliff Road in Eagan is making headway. The completed Cliff Road reconstruction project includes three “turtle tunnels" or “critter crossings" designed to provide safe passage for turtles and other wildlife that travel near the area.
Recent images captured on trail cameras revealed a snapping turtle, a muskrat and a squirrel passing through the 36-inch concrete arch tunnels beneath the roadway.
A joint study with Dakota County and the Minnesota Zoo identified especially dangerous crossings for wildlife along Cliff Road near Lebanon Hills Regional Park. Certain areas near Holland Lake and McDonough Lake were identified as the highest risk for turtle and small animal crossings. These crossings pose a risk for both the animals and the traveling public.
“When we have projects like these wildlife tunnels, we are helping to facilitate wildlife movement within the landscapes they travel — a little better and a little safer," Dakota County Parks Natural Resources Manager Tom Lewanski said.
Animals reach the tunnels thanks to fencing that funnels their travel toward the safe passages. The tunnels are considered “dry" tunnels and are above certain flood levels to ensure the local hydrology and water quality are not affected by the tunnel locations.
In addition to the tunnels, the recently completed Cliff Road construction project includes:
- Reconstructed Cliff Road from Lexington Avenue to Dodd Road.
- New multi-use trails along Cliff Road.
- Intersection improvements, including a roundabout at Dodd Road.
- Improved pedestrian access to Lebanon Hills Regional Park.
- Traffic safety improvements between Lexington Avenue South and Dodd Road.