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Turtles

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

Our watershed community told us to ... protect turtles!

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

Turtle Contest Winners (World Turtle Day)

We are excited to announce the winners of the turtle quiz prize draw! 

Congratulations to our two watershed winners, Isla Groot, of Exeter; and Emily Godts, of Parkhill and our additional winner from the neighbouring Maitland Valley watershed, Casey Irvine, of Wingham! 

Thanks, Huron Stewardship Council, for having donated the T-shirts and thanks to the more than 110 people who took the turtle quiz and the more than 40,000 reached through social media. #WorldTurtleDay

Thanks for having reported turtle nests

A big thank you to all the people who reported turtle nests to us this year, especially to volunteers Chris and Gail Hills, who took time to construct several nest protection cages. Thank you all for protecting Ontario's freshwater turtles!

The Importance of Protecting 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,” Hope said. “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 Hope.

Turtle monitoring workshops have been held with the support of Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation (ABCF) and Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) and other generous partners.

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.

Ten Days of Turtle Facts

#WorldTurtleDay

All those who complete a turtle quiz, through a survey link to be posted at abca.ca, were entered in a draw for one of two turtle prize packs. 

The winner was announced on World Turtle Day, Saturday, May 23, 2020.

Congratulations to our winners!

Here are some facts about our amazing and precious Ontario freshwater turtles (for original posts please visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed - just click the social media icons at the top of the home page):

  • Ten Days of Turtle Facts! There is a quiz and draw contest for turtle pack prizes and daily posts to learn about how to protect our Ontario turtles and why we need to protect them.
  • All eight species of freshwater turtles in Ontario are species at risk. This means these animals could disappear if we don’t change our actions. To learn more about Ontario’s turtle species, visit https://ontarionature.org/…/reptile-amphibian-atlas/species/ #WorldTurtleDay
  • Some turtles can hide in their shells. This protects them from predators. Snapping turtles have a small plastron which provides no protection. This causes this turtle to be ‘snappy,’ defending itself on land. #WorldTurtleDay Learn more, enter quiz draw at abca.ca
  • Take our short turtle quiz now to be entered in a free draw. The quiz is only five questions, all multiple choice! How easy is that? To take the short quiz, for a chance to win one of two turtle prize packs, visit this page now: https://www.abca.ca/community/turtles/ #WorldTurtleDay"
  • Turtles are ectotherms or cold-blooded. This means they can’t regulate their own body temperature. They rely on their environment. To warm up, turtles must find a sunny place to bask, such as a log. To cool down, turtles dive down into the water and bury themselves in the mud.
  • Turtles have lungs. Turtles breathe air. In hibernation, when turtles are underwater, turtles breathe through their back end (cloaca). This opening is for excretion and laying eggs. It has lots of blood vessels to allow the turtle to take up oxygen as water flows past.
  • Snapping turtles are one of the largest of the eight Ontario turtle species. Their shell can grow up to 50 cm long. Snapping turtles are omnivores. 90% of their diet is dead plants and animals. For this reason Snapping turtles are important in keeping lakes and wetlands clean.
  • ‎Painted turtle hatchlings have a super-cool ability. They hatch in autumn and emerge right away or stay in the nest underground until spring. Special proteins in their blood act like antifreeze. This allows them to survive harsh winter and climb out of their nest in spring.
  • ‎Road mortality is a threat to Ontario turtles. Drive carefully especially near wildlife crossing signs. Turtles are on the road between April and November, and especially during June. For safely moving a turtle across the road, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lgd_B6iKPxU #WorldTurtleDay
  • Ontario has a turtle hospital! Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre is a registered charity caring for native turtles. If you find an injured turtle call 1-705-741-5000. Volunteer as Turtle Taxi for occasional injured animal transport: https://ontarioturtle.ca/get-involved/volunteer #WorldTurtleDay
  • Habitat loss is a threat to Ontario turtles. Turtles need rivers, lakes, ponds and wetlands. In southwestern Ontario we have lost 70 per cent of these wetlands. Protect natural spaces. Consider enhancing wetland habitat. Learn more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah2Nx2kwhEs #WorldTurtleDay
  • Turtles are long-lived, but mature slowly. Hatchling survival is very low. Less than 1% survive to be adults. A female Snapping turtle must lay many eggs to replace herself. Each reproducing adult is vital. Donate to help turtles: https://www.abca.ca/foundation/donate/ #WorldTurtleDay
  • Happy World Turtle Day! https://www.abca.ca/community/turtles/ #WorldTurtleDay

Thanks to everyone who completed the quiz by 4 p.m. on Friday, March 22, 2020, through the survey link at abca.ca.