1. Watch for them on roads
Look out for turtles near natural areas, especially in valleys or near wetlands. Turtles are on the move from May to July and then September to October. They may nest at roadsides in June.
2. Never relocate a turtle
They have memorized their territories and cannot readily adjust to new areas. Moving them can result in their death. Keep them within 200 metres of where you found them.
3. Help them across
They move between habitats in their territory and should not be restricted to one site. If they were on the road travelling across (as opposed to nesting) and if it is safe to do so, move them in the direction they are heading. During the month of June in Eastern North America, it is nesting season and during this time mother turtles may be on roadsides; they may make large U-turns back to the wetlands behind them as opposed to crossing roads, therefore, watch at this time to make sure they wish to cross the road before helping.
4. Don't leave them to suffer
Turtles feel through their shells and can rebound from amazing injuries. They can lose 70% of their blood and still survive.
If spotting an injured turtle, note the location, retrieve then, place them in a dry container, without food or water, and keep them warm but below 28/82 degrees, and call the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (Ontario's Turtle Hospital) at 705-741-5000.
If possible, do not leave a turtle to suffer and succumb to predators if they are injured.
6. Never feed a turtle
Snapping turtles only snap on land in defense, and only in water when expecting food. When fishing, it is a good idea to change locations often. Also never feed a wild turtle, or even one that is in your care for a time because they are injured.
7. Don't take them as pets
It is illegal to have a native turtle as a pet in Ontario. Also, turtles imprint spatial memories of their territories when very young. They cannot easily adjust to new areas when older. Therefore, leave wild turtles, including hatchlings, wild.
8. Don't release sliders
Red Eared Sliders are sold in pet stores. They are an invasive species in Ontario that can outcompete our turtles and spread diseases too. Instead of releasing them, adopt them out to a caring person.
9. Don't fill or drain wetlands
Turtles use wetlands as hibernation and feeding sites, which they return to annually. The features and functions found at these sites cannot be duplicated easily and many wetlands take thousands of years to evolve to harbor the plants and soils needed for water regulation and filtration. Destroying wetlands harms turtle populations and other species too.
10. Report sightings and issues
Sightings help us plan ecopassages that help turtles navigate roads safely, as well decipher where to install alert signs for drivers. Sightings also help us track population trends and important elders or individuals. Take photos and record locations and send them to us or use the iNaturalist app or here on our website. It is illegal to harm or take a turtle. Report these crimes to Crime Stoppers and keep us in the loop
If you see deliberate harm to turtles, use this guide below to obtain evidence and help authorities:
11. Care for habitat, including nests, on your property
Keeping natural areas and functions intact on your property is good for wildlife and the world. You simply need to keep your wildlife neighbours in mind to understand how to live in harmony with them.
Every turtle needs a turtle hero. We have many ways for you to get involved and become a Turtle Guardian in your community.
13. Learn more about turtles
Turtles may be slow moving but they are not simple and understanding them is not straightforward! They are extremely interesting and surprising creatures with a lot to teach us! You can join a presentation, webinar, or class with us to learn more.