Turtles are declining in Ontario. This will have a detrimental impact on a lot of fish and wildlife species. Turtles spread aquatic seeds and remove dead matter from lakes and wetlands. They also cycle nutrients. Without these slow friends in our lakes, we would lose vital fish habitat and wetlands would suffer. This would then impact many species all the way from dragonflies, to frogs, and even moose! The main threats to turtles include road traffic, habitat loss (removal of vegetation at the shore and wetlands), deliberate kills of snapping turtles from people who mistakenly think them harmful, and where humans live, there is little to no recruitment (eggs that survive and make it to adulthood). In settled areas nest predation is more than 80%. This is because meso-predators (middle-sized mammals) such as foxes, raccoons, and skunks feel “more comfortable” and are “more successful” occupying these areas. These middle-sized mammals make a feast of turtle eggs.
To help turtles thrive, The Land Between staff and volunteers, under the charity’s Turtle Guardians program, are conducting research on turtles on roads (taking blood samples, tracking where they are crossing etc.) and are digging up nests that are close to high risk areas such as roads, and which cannot be protected with specialized caging or other appropriate materials. Then these eggs are incubated at the Headquarters in Haliburton, for release in the fall. These activities are done under a special wildlife permit. The public cannot legally dig up nests, but also they should not dig up nests: Eggs are extremely sensitive and require special ways of extracting them without damage and also conditions to succeed. If you see a nesting turtle on a main road in Haliburton, call us at 705-854-3578. If you see any turtle; rare, dead, alive, injured, or nesting in Haliburton, Muskoka, City of Kawartha Lakes, Peterborough, or Simcoe, call the Turtle Hotline at 705-955-4284 and a biologist will be dispatched to get the coordinates and perhaps to take DNA samples too. If you have a nesting turtle on your own property, and can cage it safely, this will protect the nest from predators, and presents an amazing opportunity to watch the incredible hatchlings emerge later in the year. Cage designs are available on the Turtle Guardians website