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Class counts turtle casualties along Highway 93

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Painted turtles are the only native turtle on the Flathead Reservation. Usually they cross U.S. Highway 93 if their pond dries up, they’re searching for a mate or they need soft mud to lay their eggs. Many turtles are killed each year by highway traffic.

PHS teacher Mark Rochin and his classes have patrolled the sides of Hwy. 93 from the rest area south of Ronan to the top of the Post Creek Hill for eight years, collecting the turtle pieces and parts to get a count on how many turtles died. Rochin began the project when he taught science at Two Eagle River School.

Wearing bright green safety vests and plastic gloves and carrying trash bags, students from the Jobs for Montana Graduates class joined Rochin, to collect about 40 turtles, down from last year’s total of 283 turtles.

“I’m just totally amazed. We’ve never picked up less than 200,” Rochin said. 

One of Rochin’s students was amazed also, but not about the turtles, about the trash.

“It  makes me really, really angry about all the trash that people throw out,” said Tyler Farley.  

Trash aside, Rochin guessed last year’s mild summer may have allowed the ponds to stay full, minimizing turtle movement.  

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