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!
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.
Hi there! My name is Victoria and I’m the new Digital Educational Coordinator for The Land Between. Over the next couple months, I’ll be creating turtley cool curriculum for Turtle Guardians. Ever wanted to know more information about Ontario’s turtles and where they live? How about going for a nature walk with your class and playing a game of BINGO? Can you help Tripod the Painted Turtle use math to determine how big his pool is for a pool party? Did you know that in North America there are 13 scutes on a turtle's shell, and that Indigenous Peoples link these scutes to the 13 moons each year? Do you want to create change by conducting research into the turtle species at risk in your community? Stay tuned for that and more! All Turtle Guardian curriculum will be centered around place-based and inquiry-based learning to allow students to think critically about what they’re learning and how to apply their newly gained knowledge to real life. The curriculum will also be paired with fun videos that support each lesson and a sharing platform to show off your work.
My background is in Environmental Biology and I have previously worked in a Science Museum delivering fun filled science activities, but my heart has always lied with nature. That is why I joined the Turtle Guardian team to bring fun lessons about turtles and wildlife into your classrooms and homes. You can often find me wandering through a wetland or forest looking for signs of wildlife and taking pictures. I’m particularly interested in ecosystem health and love coming across a mushroom.
I can’t wait to share with everyone the new curriculum – and just like a turtle on their birthday, you’ll be shell-ebrating all your new knowledge!
Therefore we ran Turtles at Two; a live-streaming online Facebook event each week. The event was cherished by so many kids and families that were isolating at home. It was an opportunity to learn about turtles and stay in touch with the turtle ambassadors at our centre.
Therefore, this winter we hope to run more online events for kids and we hope to make each event useful to parents too! That is why we are working hard to create new Turtle Curriculum with more interactive features and enhanced tools!
Soon you will be able to download, watch and teach all kinds of subjects from math to geography and science- and from junior grades all the way to secondary school! The Turtle Guardians Curriculum will include lesson plans, activity sheets, videos that support each lesson, and also a sharing platform to show off your work! Once launched we will also start biweekly Turtles at Two classes too!
All the curriculum uses turtles at the core of each subject - to direct your discovery! For instance, in math, we have designed exercises that are practical and meaningful. Can you tell us how many turtle hatchlings will likely reach adulthood in a 21 year period, and there are 13 turtles each laying an average of 84 eggs, with a survival rate is 0.06%? Or for Social Sciences, did you know that each turtle in North America has 13 scutes representing the 13 moons each year, and that Indigenous Peoples likened the turtle to a calendar- can you discuss what major events happen in each moon in your community? The lessons are also designed for inquiry-based learning, place-based learning and to generate deep discovery and dialogue.
We are so proud of our staff and partners who are supporting these efforts and look forward to sharing the tools with you!
Turtles like to feel safe. They feel safe in warm and wet conditions. They also like to cross roads in the same general area they used the year before- most often these areas are between two wetlands or aquatic habitats. Sometimes the wetlands that border roadways need free-flowing drainage between them in order that roads do not flood, therefore, culverts are installed between them. These are the sites- where culverts exist between two wetlands- that we may be able to direct turtles safely under roads and through the culverts! This solution is called an underpass, or as we like to call it; a turtle tunnel.
How to direct a turtle under a tunnel?
Directing turtles is not easy, because they are intimidated by tunnels, and because they will resist moving off course at any significant distance. However, we can point to a few key design features to explain how turtle tunnels are chosen and structured. A successful design will has these basic requirements: First, the culvert has to be quite large; at least 1 metre in diameter. Also, the culvert cannot be blocked or completely flooded or too long either. This is because turtles need to see enough light at the other end to feel safe enough to go through the tunnel. Secondly, the wetland needs to be free from interruptions such as driveways or small hills and upland areas that meet the roads- this is because the wetlands need to be fenced off entirely and completely. Turtles will look for alternatives before going through an underground tunnel, and will look to areas that they can "jump out". Therefore, a driveway or island in the middle of a wetland or the edge of the aquatic habitat are tempting and easy alternatives for them to choose rather than going through a relatively dark tunnel. Finally, and as a precaution, fencing should be set back far enough from the road, or should be designed in such a way that it will not restrict turtles or other wildlife that find their way onto the road, from getting off the road! This simply ensures that any design failures will not result in further harm to wildlife- especially to our slow moving friends.
This safety measure is one of the many reasons we have chosen an arch shape fence that can be installed below grade (below the level of the road), and can be backfilled so that it is flush with the area above it, or entirely invisible and permeable to wildlife that are on the roads. Even snakes should be able to escape the pavement with these designs! The other reason we have chosen an arched or concave shape solution is because this shape is extremely strong and durable, resisting heavy loads. Finally, the arch shape at 1m diameter/width prevents even large snapping turtles from successfully climbing the barrier- and turtles are amazing climbers!
We are also experimenting with new materials! Traditional arched turtle fencing is made from a large pvc pipe and is all one long piece that requires installation. The pipe itself is expensive, and the installation requires heavy equipment and levels to set it just right, increasing the cost to at least $20/metre. This means turtle underpasses of this sort in The Land Between bioregion, with smaller wetlands, can cost at anywhere from $10,000.00 for each site alone. With over 970 potential tunnel (culvert crossing) sites on county roads in the region, the cost would be extremely high!
Our Pilot Solution in Progress
Therefore, we are innovating! We have sourced food-grade steel drums. These are durable, weldable, less expensive, and they can be put in one by one, by hand or with smaller equipment. We are going to test this design this winter to see how it fairs in snow conditions and if it stays in place with frost heave. This solution is not only less expensive for materials and installation at only $8.00/metre after painting and welding, but the design is more easy to maintain and manage, and it is a form of recycling! The difference in cost is in labour however; there is a lot of preparation that is required to get the drums/barrels ready for installation- but with great staff and volunteers, the work load is lighter and the cost can be reduced.
This fall we have been busy preparing for our pilot testing! We have assessed potential tunnel sites; designed the solution (and with engineering review); sourced materials; cut, grinded, and painted the cut drums, and recently we have been welding different parts together to make sure that the structure will be stable when installed.
Near the end of this last September, Garry Mercer Trucking generously delivered over 143, 55 Gallon steel drums from So Soya in Toronto to our work area at Highlanders Auto Body in Minden. Throughout the following weeks afterwards, our staff worked tirelessly to remove the tops and bottoms (creating a sort of steel tube), and then halved the steel "tube" vertically, creating two steel "half-pipes". These "C" shaped drums were then transported to our office in Haliburton, where we grounded the edges smooth and painted the bare metal parts to prevent rusting. The hard labor was finally done! Or so we thought...
In comes Taylor, a Turtle Hero in the form of a welder. Taylor is welding the tops and bottoms of the steel drums to the base of the "C" drums to provide a footing, and then welding a piece of rebar to the back to provide stability (see the picture above of a completed drum).
Once all of the welding has been complete, the turtle tunnels are ready to install! We hope that within the next three weeks, if the ground has not frozen, we will install them. If the design is stable and effective, it will be a new way forward for cost effective turtle passage solutions in Ontario. Stay tuned as we move this project forward.
Creating and installing these Turtle Tunnels is hard work, and couldn't be done without the support of our amazing staff, volunteers and donors.
All donations and also proceeds from our gift shop go towards ensuring work like this continues to conserve our amazing turtles.
If you would like to volunteer to help install the tunnel, or would like to donate to help fund it's installation and more like it, please visit our website or contact us at email@example.com
On behalf of all turtles and animals saved through our conservation efforts, we thank you for your continued support!