Turtles and Guardians
Seven of Ontario’s eight native turtle species are currently at-risk. Turtle populations have declined globally in the last 20 years by about 50%. Predation by raccoons, skunks and foxes is a major problem for turtle nests. Turtles are killed on roads as they cross or bask. Some turtles, such as Snapping Turtles, are killed by humans for food or who mistake them as dangerous to have in lakes and ponds. Turtles are also taken out of breeding populations to be kept as pets. Turtles can live over well over 100 years but they must live over 25 years to ensure that one new turtle will survive to take their place. Most turtles on roads are females (60%) and road shoulders have become choice nesting sites leaving both breeders and nests at greater risk to road traffic and maintenance issues. Snapping turtles, of all the turtles, are the best at keeping water and lakes clean - they feast on any and all dead and decaying things. But Snapping turtles are often killed by lake-land owners who assume that they will harm people when they are swimming or in the water. This is a mistake.
Turtle’s are an essential part of the our wetlands ecosystem, their habitat regulates water quality and quantity and is essential for the survival of fish and wildlife as well as our own health and wellbeing.
Turtle Guardians help conserve turtles and turtle habitats. They help to increase survival of turtle eggs by receiving and installing protective cages with safe exit points on nest sites. They help to conserve turtle populations by learning to identify, monitor and report turtle sightings and habitat features and then by applying conservation and stewardship measures on their properties. Volunteers are provided with education and support through workshops, presentations, online resources, and access to project field experts....and starting in 2017 volunteers are helping to assess potential turtle tunnel sites so that we can install underpasses and keep turtles off roads!
The Turtle Guardian Program delivery area for workshops, training, volunteerism and other is focused in The Land Between- a region harboring the highest density and over 1/3 of Ontario's turtle population.
A Group Effort
Few conservation groups in Ontario are focused on helping to conserve and monitor turtles. Those with this ambition and mandate have joined together to create the Turtle Guardian program. By joining efforts, we can better support turtle conservation and research in Ontario; and Turtle Guardians benefit from all of our resources.
The Land Between charity is the backbone of this effort providing the framework and delivery of the program, but this could not be achieved without our key partners. Information to and from the Turtle Guardians program is shared by and with the Toronto Zoo and Ontario Nature. These groups are leaders in tracking turtle populations and creating the Reptile Atlas; too they offer great education and outreach programs including their Adopt-a-pond program. Other conservancies provide site visits, expertise and benefits in support of land stewardship and securement for the future. And if Guardians decide to share information from their own properties or public areas, we will provide locations of turtles to government planning authorities who use this information in planning and mitigation projects.