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Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority

Turtles

In photo, from left, Northern Map Turtle, and two Midland Painted Turtles.
In photo, from left, Northern Map Turtle, and two Midland Painted Turtles.

The community group that met for a year to develop the Conservation Strategy said Ausable Bayfield Conservation and other partners should protect water, soil, and living things ... such as turtles.

Ontario’s freshwater turtles play an important role in local ecosystems. These important reptiles face numerous threats in Canada and around the world, according to Ausable Bayfield Conservation. “Local turtle populations can be affected by the loss of even one adult turtle,” said Hope Brock, Healthy Watersheds Technician with Ausable Bayfield Conservation.

The Port Franks Community Turtle Monitoring Program has been taking place for more than half a decade. “Local people help to let us know about the turtles they see and we are very thankful for that,” said Brock. “When we know how many turtles there are and what habitat they are using, it helps in our work to protect them and preserve their vital role in local watercourses.”

The local ecological system of water and land depends on having diverse animals that each play a role to keep that system healthy. The turtle is a vital part of that ecosystem. Turtles help to control aquatic vegetation. Turtles serve as scavengers. This means they help clean our creeks and wetlands by eating dead and decaying fish and other organisms.

Ontario turtle numbers are going down. Some of Ontario’s turtles are species at risk under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 and the federal Species at Risk Act. The likelihood of offspring survival in turtles is very low, which means that a female turtle will have to lay many eggs over the course of her life for just one of her offspring to survive. Turtle numbers are in decline because of factors such as death on roadways, decline in habitat, slow rates of reproduction, and eating of eggs (predation) by predators such as raccoons or skunks. The important role that turtles play, and the worrisome decline in turtle numbers, make the local Port Franks Area Community Turtle Monitoring Program very important, according to Brock.

The turtle monitoring workshop is held with the support of Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation (ABCF) and Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA).

Turtle species

Ontario has eight native turtle species. All eight of these species can be found in Ausable Bayfield Conservation watersheds. These species are as follows:

  • Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
  • Eastern Musk Turtle (Stinkpot) (Sternotherus odoratus)
  • Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata)
  • Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica)
  • Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
  • Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera)
  • Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)
  • Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

Turtle Sighting Reporting Form

Ausable Bayfield Conservation would like to hear about your turtle sightings.  

Click here on this link for: Turtle Sighting Reporting Form.

For more information on these turtle species, please visit the Ontario Nature Reptiles and Amphibians web page.

What to do if you find a turtle on the road

Female turtles need to leave the water to lay their eggs on dry ground. They typically do this from late May to early July. They often need to cross roads to get to suitable nesting areas. Sometimes they may even nest on the sides of roads.

If you find a turtle on the road, please help it across safely (only if it is safe for you to do so). Always move the turtle in the direction that it is heading.

Most turtles can be picked up carefully with two hands. When handling Snapping Turtles keep a safe distance from their head as they will snap at you if they feel threatened. You can grab the back of the shell and gently drag it across the road.  Or, you may want to use a shovel, blanket, or car mat to move the turtle. Never pick up a turtle by the tail as this could damage its spine.

What to do if you find an injured turtle

  • Carefully place the injured turtle in a box or well-ventilated plastic container with a secure lid (turtles can climb!)

Most turtles can be picked up carefully with two hands. 

When handling Snapping Turtles keep a safe distance from their head as they will snap at you if they feel threatened. You may want to use a shovel or board to lift the turtle.

Note the location (road and major intersections) where the turtle was found to ensure it can be released according to provincial regulations.

Do not transport turtles in water. Do not offer the turtle anything to eat.

Take the turtle to:

  • Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, P.O. Box 601, Mt Brydges, ON, NOL 1WO • 519-264-2440
  • Turtle Haven, 114 Mansion Street Kitchener, ON, N2H 2J9 • 519-745-4334
  • Georgian Bay Turtle Hospital-Oro-Medonte, ON, L3V 6H1
  • Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, 1434 Chemong Road 4, Peterborough, ON, K9J 6X2 • 705-741-5000
  • Toronto Wildlife Centre, 60 Carl Hall Road, Toronto, ON, M3K 2C1 • 416-631-0662
  • Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue, Oil Springs, 519-466-6636. 

Volunteer couriers may be able to drive the turtle to a rehabilitation centre if you cannot. Please call first. 

Even if the turtle cannot be saved, wildlife rehabilitation staff may be able to save the eggs inside her!

The local ecological system depends on having diverse animals that each play a role to keep that system healthy. The turtle is a vital part of that eco-system. Turtles help to control aquatic vegetation. Turtles serve as scavengers. This means they help clean our creeks and wetlands by eating dead and decaying fish and other organisms.

It takes a long time for most turtles to reach maturity. Mature turtles may live a long time but turtles reproduce at a low rate. Any time a mother turtle dies, or any adult turtle dies, there is an impact on the future of the species. A Snapping Turtle would have to lay about 1,400 eggs in her lifetime, on average, in order for just one of her offspring to survive to adulthood. Saving even one adult by safely moving it across the road can help to conserve that species.