All turtles in Ontario are protected under legislation. Turtle populations are at risk of extinction and are considered “Species at Risk” in Canada, which means each turtle is important to maintain populations. Turtles are protected under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, Endangered Species Act, the federal Species at Risk Act, and turtle habitats may also be protected under these pieces of legislation as well as municipal laws in most jurisdictions.
Direct harm to a turtle and also to their habitat features can carry fines of up to $25,000 or one year in jail. If someone kills a turtle, removes it from the wild or removes turtle eggs; or if someone buys or sells a turtle or their eggs, fines can be as much as $100,000.
If you witness a turtle being harmed, or if you see evidence of poaching, take pictures or videos of the incident if possible and if it is safe to do so. It is helpful to have proof of the harm or which documents the intent to harm a turtle, and therefore pictures or video footage can be vital to a case.
On roads it may be difficult to avoid turtles, however, if you see a vehicle swerve to hit a turtle that is on a yellow or white line, or a turtle on the road shoulder,, or if there are few vehicles on the road and the car has ample opportunity but still doesn’t avoid the turtle, these situations can be evidence of intentional harm. In these cases, get the license plate of the vehicle involved.
At the time of the incident, call 911, or if you have evidence of an infraction but are not on the scene, you can call Ontario’s conservation officers at 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667). If you wish to remain anonymous, you can also call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
Please remember to be cautious and do not approach if you feel unsafe. Also do not trespass on private property to gather evidence. Instead call one of the hotline numbers and stay turtley cool and turtley safe too!