It is that season! Here are some tips to help you spot and therefore help turtles on roads:
Turtle Guardians celebrates the first billboard to raise awareness about the vulnerability of turtles in Ontario. The "It Takes 60 Years to Replace One" message alerts drivers, that may not have understood, the length of time it takes until one egg succeeds to reach adulthood in the overall population. Ancestors had the mistaken idea that turtles were as prolific and abundant as rodents, and that they could reproduce as quickly, but we now know that this is simply not true. In fact, turtles may be one of the very few species that has such a low recruitment rate and therefore who take the longest to be replaced in nature- thus the reason turtles need to live to such old ages, likely beyond 275 years old. Therefore each one, and especially the adults and adult females that are crossing roads to nesting sites, are precious. The first billboard went up in May on Highway 62, south of Bancroft and north of Madoc. This highway is renowned for high turtle mortality, with fast cars and transport trucks. However, this highway is also fairly straight and flat, allowing motorists to see turtles ahead and avoid them. We are now raising money to install more billboards in other key areas across Ontario. Help us by donating through our GoFundMe Campaign
It can take up to 60 years for one turtle to be replaced in nature. Turtles are keystone species that support entire ecosystems- and also the fish and wildlife within them. Turtles cannot be relocated to new areas to repopulate areas as they imprint their home ranges when they are hatchlings and they cannot remake these "mind maps" of their feeding, hibernation and mating sites. When turtles travel in their home ranges, the younger turtles are eating carrion and other protein which helps to keep water free of harmful pathogens, and the older turtles are consuming seeds and vegetation, so as they walk to the next destination, they spread seeds which grow into new fish nurseries and habitats for wildlife. Without turtles in our environments, our health and wellbeing are at risk. Turtle populations are declining at unprecedented and unsustainable rates- It is estimated that more than 50% of turtles have been lost in Ontario already. The major threat to turtles is road traffic and resulting injury or mortality. This summer Turtle Guardians are partnering with Peterborough and Haliburton County Road Departments to enable volunteers to monitor high mortality/road-crossing areas; and assist turtles in trouble, in these zones...saving essential species in our communities while building skills to help turtles everywhere! Training, including turtle ecology, safety protocols, identification, and safe-handling skills will be provided to volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering please complete this form. Thank you for your interest
Phragmites australis australis, otherwise known as European Common Reed or Invasive Phragmites, is a fast-spreading, perennial aquatic grass found growing in wetlands, shorelines and roadside ditches. This aggressive plant crushes biodiversity by outcompeting our native plants. In 2005, Invasive Phragmites was named Canada’s worst invasive plant species by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.
What Does It Look Like?
Invasive Phragmites is a tall (up to 5 meters), densely growing grass. It has broad, flat, blue-green leaves and purple-yellow plumes (flowers) that grow on the end of each stalk. Stalks produced in previous years are brown-yellow and stay standing for many years after they die. For more information on how to identify Invasive Phragmites, as well as information on how to distinguish Invasive Phragmites from the closely related native Phragmites, visit the Phrag Fighter page of our website and watch the Invasive Phragmites Surveying webinar.
Where Is It Found?
Invasive Phragmites can be found all across Ontario, with stands reported as far north as Sudbury. Check out this EDDMapS Ontario map for a snapshot of its distribution across Ontario (and the rest of North America).
How Does It Spread?
According to the NCC, Invasive Phragmites spread by nearly 30% between 2010 and 2017 in Ontario. This figure is likely an underestimate, as Phragmites stands are known to be underreported in regions such as The Land Between.
Invasive Phragmites spreads easily to new areas through both seed (2000+ seeds per flower) and rhizome (underground horizontal stem) fragment dispersal (Short et al. 2017). The plant’s rhizomes often become damaged as a result of improper maintenance techniques. The fragments are then spread by the wind, animals, or human movement (cars, shoes, etc.).
New stands of Invasive Phragmites often establish first in disturbed areas such as roadside ditches or recent construction sites, and then spread quickly into nearby, less disturbed areas such as lake shorelines and wetlands (Short et al. 2017).
Invasive Phragmites is a problem for several reasons.
First, it has detrimental impacts on biodiversity and the natural environment. Establishment of the invasive grass in an area often results in the elimination of most other plant, animal and insect species. The aggressive plant outcompetes most all native plants, producing dense stands that make areas completely unsuitable for the turtles, amphibians, birds and other animals that depend on beech, wetland and shoreline habitats.
Further, the rhizomes (root systems), which account for the majority of the mass of the plant (up to 80%), can grow to be so large and so dense that they block water channels, and slow or redirect runoff, increasing the risk of flooding in some areas (Short et al. 2017)
Invasive Phragmites also poses a significant threat to human health and well-being. Able to grow as tall as 5 meters, Invasive Phragmites can block driver site lines along roadways, and ruin aesthetic lakefront views. The plant can also grow to be so dense that it blocks waterfront access, impeding recreational activities such as boating, swimming and fishing. It also has a significant impact on the economy, with Ontario municipalities collectively spending an average of nearly $3 million per year on Invasive Phragmites management (Vyn 2019).
Invasive Phragmites is an undeniable threat, and we here at The Land Between want to do everything in our power to minimize the devastating effects of this invasive species in our region. But we need your help.
Phrag Fighters is a volunteer community science program designed to collect information on where stands of Invasive Phragmites are located across The Land Between, and to remove select stands using manual, accessible methods. By registering as a Phrag Fighter, you will be part of an amazing team of volunteers dedicated to protecting their home, or home away from home, from Invasive Phragmites.
The Phrag Fighter program has two parts: Surveying and Removal. Surveying involves reporting and mapping Phragmites stands in an assigned area of The Land Between using either the EDDMapS Ontario mobile app, or provided field sheets. Removal involves cutting one or more stands of Phragmites (according to the specific technique), and properly disposing of the stalks. Each stand will be cut three times throughout the season, once per month from June to August. You can choose to participate in surveying, removal, or both!
Sound like this might be for you? Visit our website to find out more about the Phrag Fighter program or to register as a volunteer. Once you are registered, you can sign up for one of our live, online training webinars. Dates and details are available here.
Since the beginning of human record, people have been creating artwork based on their natural surroundings. From cave paintings of wild animals to complexly rendered landscape paintings, we have explored our long and dynamic relationship with land, plants and wildlife. There seems to be no end to our revelry for the beauty of a sunset or the power of a tiger. We are connected to place often through nature and wildlife and our experiences of them. Artistically expressing the beauty of nature gives everyone something to be see and be excited about. But could art do more for humans and wildlife than visual stimulation and celebration? How can wildlife and public art create stronger communities?
For several years, I have been painting murals across Ontario, working with communities to foster local pride with artwork that reflects local history, stories and ecology. Painting a mural is performative work. As my team and I paint, we are often (happily) interrupted by onlookers who wish to express their joy and wonder about our work. Locals pass by and want to share their stories and experiences in the neighbourhood as well as their passion for art. These exchanges should never be taken for granted. As a community comes together to share, relationships and connections are made over two commonalities: the artwork, and the place. The experience of sharing their story and watching the work evolve leads to a sense of ownership and participation that connects people to the work, deepening the connection to place and community. Public murals reach audiences beyond the art galleries and the sometimes “superior” air that accompanies “high art”. Murals are for everyone and they present messages to all who see them.
My murals aim to beautify and unite communities. I have painted everything from folklore dragons in Chinatown, to historical stories of colonialism in Port Union. Also, I restore murals. After preparing the surface to restore a 20-year-old heritage mural, I can testify to value of a mural in a community, because as the old, peeling paint is scraped away, those passing by begin to frantically ask questions…”You’re not painting over this are you?” “What is happening here?!” The relief when I explain otherwise, is evident and often followed by expressions of gratitude: “It’s my favourite stop on this street…I walk past it every day to work”.
Like the murals that draw people in, natural spaces also unite communities with a positive bond. The happy spaces of the wild draw people of all walks of life. Like art, we can experience a range of emotions amidst wild spaces; from peace and tranquility to a rush of excitement. The sights and colours in the wild areas are a gateway to a deeply personal experience. The memory of a hike includes the physical labour, the act of discovery, the time shared with others or the insight gained from the experience. Nature is enjoyed by a larger spectrum of senses than the eyes; and the memory of the experience is what ties us to a place.
Therefore, both individually and better together, art and nature can unite people by connecting them to the land, wildlife, community, and memories to create a shared sense of belonging. The key factor behind the creation of community is shared experience. Each community is unique. It is critical that people understand and celebrate their distinctiveness.
As I developed the Turtle Guardians mural in Haliburton, the positive community impacts were evident before the mural had even been completed. As people joined together over coffee and lunch at Baked and Battered, dozens of people stopped daily to talk with me about the large snapping turtle I was painting on the side of the restaurant. They shared with me their experiences with turtles, where they live, their love for wildlife and the Haliburton area. The mural was joining community members together by sharing stories and common experiences. As they watch the mural develop, and chat with me, they become a part of the process. They share a piece of the monument. Having learned a thing or two about the gentleness and vulnerability of snapping turtles, many were eager to become more involved with the turtle and habitat conservation efforts by the Turtle Guardians program of the Land Between charity. The painting had sparked the interest of nature lovers to engage further with wildlife and their local community. However, a bigger win was the consideration and new perspectives that were generated from the process and painting; individuals who previously misunderstood snapping turtles as dangerous or worthless, now saw them in their true light as iconic invaluable animals. The mural serves to illustrate and testify that wildlife and community are one in the same; that both are dependent on people working to preserve these assets.
Article and Artwork by Stacey Kinder
This past December, an Ojibwe translation of a popular children's’ book about a young boy helping turtles safely cross a busy road has been published by the Long Point Biosphere Reserve (LPBR). The translation was a collaboration with the Ojibwe-speaking Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, whose Treaty Lands and traditional territory include the LPBR.
Entitled “Kaa Wiika Boontaake” (“Never Give Up”), the colorful book tells the story of little Johnny’s determination to protect his friend “Snapper” and other turtles from heavy traffic. Written and illustrated by Long Point cottager Jan Everett, the story is based on her husband John’s efforts to save turtles along the Long Point Causeway, the unofficial gateway to the LPBR.
“Recognizing the significance of the turtle in Indigenous culture, we approached the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN) to help us translate the book into Anishinaabemowin, the common language of the Ojibwe, Odawa and Pottawatomi peoples of the Three Fires Confederacy”, said LPBR president Rick Levick. An Ojibwe First Nation, the Mississaugas of the Credit have been allied to this Confederacy for more than 200 years.
The translation was done by James “Mawla” Shawana (Odawa/Pottawatomi from Wiikwemkoong First Nation), a language teacher at the Lloyd S. King Elementary School in the MCFN community near Hagersville, Ontario for the past 12 years.
“The Mississaugas of the Credit would like to thank the Long Point Biosphere Reserve for reaching out to our First Nation”, said Chief R. Stacey Laforme. “Our shared collaboration will allow students at the elementary school in our community to enjoy a special experience -- reading this popular children’s book in Anishinaabemowin.”
Chief Laforme added, “Collaborations such as these are small but important steps on the journey of reconciliation, miigwech (thank you).”
Since 2014, more than 3,500 English and French copies of the book have been sold with the proceeds supporting on-going maintenance of exclusion fencing and wildlife culverts that were installed along the Causeway to reduce road mortality of turtles and snakes including several Species at Risk.
“The story of Johnny and Snapper parallels the 10-year, $2.7 million effort by the Long Point community that reduced reptile deaths on the Causeway by nearly 80 per cent”, said Levick. Details about this effort and the role of the LPBR are included in English at the end of the book.
Never Give Up was translated in 2019, the International Year of Indigenous Languages but publication was delayed due to the COVID 19 outbreak.
“We are honoured that our book "Never Give Up" can now be enjoyed in Anishinaabemowin. This truly is a book for children of all ages”, said author Jan Everett and husband John.
Plans are underway to launch the book with a virtual reading by author Jan Everett and translator James Shawana to the students of Lloyd S. King Elementary School.
The LPBR will be distributing free copies of Kaa Wiika Boontaake to other Anishinaabe communities across Ontario and offering it for sale at www.longpointbiosphere.com.
The Long Point Biosphere Reserve promotes research, monitoring, community outreach and education, partnerships, and projects that support the goals of biodiversity, conservation and sustainable communities in Norfolk County. We exchange information and work collaboratively with the Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association, as well as other biosphere reserves in Canada and around the world.
The Mississaugas of the Credit are an Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) First Nation with 2,600 band members, of whom approximately 800 live on the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation near Hagersville, Ontario. For more information please visit www.mncfn.ca.
Never Give Up is now available in the Turtle Guardians online store!
Each year (well. this is only our second year) the Turtle Guardians team under the artistic leadership of Jaime Kearnan, puts together our annual calendar. Jaime builds sets and costumes for the turtles and then goes to work designing scenes for each month of the year. It is an involved and creative process for sure! These calendars are coveted by all the kids that have attended Turtle Camp or watched Turtles at Two on our Facebook channels, or who have volunteered with us to babysit nesting turtles, monitor wetlands, or with their parents, conduct research on adopted sections of roads. The Turtle Guardian calendar is a collectible- full of fun photos and educational facts about turtles too! Sales from the calendar go directly to support our turtle threat mitigation program: turtles take up to 60 years to replace themselves, and losses of adults and habitats can result in local extinctions in short order. Beyond nest predation, road injury or mortality are the largest threats in Ontario. But there are so many to counter; the pet-trade, fishing bycatch or fishing accidents are also leading causes of turtle losses in Ontario. Now too, the protection for our wetlands has been significantly diminished and turtle populations are at further risk of disappearing in our lifetime. The sales of the Turtle Guardians calendar help support our strategic work to maintain populations: We install turtle tunnels and specialized fencing- The Turtle Guardians program of The Land Between has targeted potential underpass sites (areas were turtles cross the road and where we can direct them under the road through culverts) and mitigation areas (areas where we can install fencing with jump outs, signage and other solutions)- and in 2021 we will begin installing the first prototypes of affordable turtle directive fencing and are working with local road departments for solutions in areas without culverts. We create curricula for schools and train kids. adults, and communities to help turtles and in 2020 we recruited 300 new Guardian volunteers! We help turtle populations succeed by excavating nests and incubating turtles eggs (under a special permit) and releasing hatchlings back to their nest locations. These nests would otherwise be compromised from construction or road traffic. And we work with landowners to create stewardship plans for their properties including wetlands. In 2021 we will be working with municipalities to advance conservation too!
To purchase your turtle calendar and support our work- as well as decorate your walls with inspiring and fun photos, visit the online store
You may have met her at Turtle Camp or during a tour of the Turtle HQ- Jeremiah is our skateboarding turtle! Jeremiah- who we originally thought was a boy and later discovered was not- was injured on a road when a car decided it would be safe if she went under the carriage, straddled by the tires. Alas snapping turtles cannot tuck in and hide like other turtles, and so, when they are scared, they snap in defense. Jeremiah therefore lost a part of her beak. Also she either jumped or the carriage was too low and her carapace was crushed. Because a turtles' top shell is fused to their spine (it is actually a part of their spine) Jeremiah's back legs were left paralyzed. Luckily, reptiles have remarkable healing abilities and can regrow nerve tissue. And luckily, Dr. Sue Carstairs of the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, knew that Jeremiah had a strong will to live. Sue offered us the option of adopting Jer- and happily we did! After four years of physiotherapy Jeremiah began to move her back legs. Then, at turtle camp, a lovely camper donated a skateboard, and Jer got to go for a ride three times a week to trigger "muscle memory". Another year has passed and slowly Jer's back leg movement has improved. They are far from articulated or strong, but today, for the first time that we have seen it, Jeremiah began climbing in her pond. Way to go Jeremiah!! Watch her go here!
Jer, we hope to witness you walking in our future.