If you found an injured turtle please call the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre at 705-741-5000
If you found a turtle (even if it is dead) within the Lake Simcoe Region, the District of Muskoka, or Parry Sound please help to contribute to recovery science and call or text the Turtle Hotline at 705-955-4284. They will dispatch a biologist to take important measurements of the turtle.
If they are native turtles, do not feed the turtles or give them water. For injured turtles keep them warm and dry in a well ventilated container. If not injured, we recommend returning the turtles to the nearest safe point to where they were found.
The Turtle Guardians program does not condone keeping wild turtles. Here's why...
Turtles have declined more than 50% globally. Turtles losses are due to road traffic, fishing bycatch, habitat loss, and people removing them from the wild as pets.
In Ontario, in natural areas, where there is no subsidized predation by raccoons and skunks etc, it can take up to 60 years for a turtle to have a successful offspring to replace itself! Studies have shown it takes at least 30 years of laying eggs, added to the almost 20 years for turtles to mature, for one turtle egg to hatch successfully and grow old enough to lay eggs replacing its parent in the population. These numbers are based on recruitment rates (the time it takes for young to successfully reach adulthood) in natural areas. Where people live, turtles have a harder time succeeding! These numbers are similar in many parts of the world.
Removing turtles from wild populations reduces the number of turtles in a population and reduces the potential breeding population, therefore affecting the next generations for all time.
Turtles need to stay in the wild to support human health too! Turtle provide ecological services that are irreplaceable and cannot be duplicated by humans: They cycle nutrients, eat dead matter that would otherwise pollute our waters, and they spread aquatic seeds that grow into plants that filter water, and provide amazing habitat for fish and aquatic species. No one else can do this job, but a turtle!
Also turtles live a very long time and require very precise nutrients, light, temperatures and care.
If a turtle is removed as a hatchling and not replaced within the first two years, it may not be able to survive in the wild at all: Turtles imprint their territories into their brains within the first three years of their lives- in this time they are learning where to find food and in Ontario, where to hibernate.
If a juvenile or adult turtle at is removed from its habitat and home, it will be stressed and will likely attempt to return home. Turtles navigate using the sun as a clock and a chemical in their brain that helps them know where to go. Many indications are that turtles may even die trying to return as they become stressed and dehydrated.
Also significant, is that are studies conducted by scientists that estimate that if we lose another 20% of common snapping turtles in Ontario, they will be extinct in 20 years...and these turtle are the best cleaning crews in Ontario's waters!
Most turtles in Ontario cannot be handled or kept without special government permits. Turtles are protected under legislation in Ontario (see below).
Please keep wild turtles wild.
If you wish to adopt a pet turtle, there are many opportunities- Check out Little ResQ
Here are more basics from colleagues in Texas:
And a great fact sheet from our partners at Scales Nature Park:
Turtles are protected under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the Endangered Species Act in Ontario and the Species at Risk Act in Canada. Also turtle nest sites of Threatened and Endangered species are protected under this legislation as Critical Species At Risk Habitats. In Ontario, fines for handling, removing turtles from nature, or harming turtles can reach $25,000.00.
While turtles are scavengers and help clean our water, removing dead and decaying matter that in turn support our health, turtles- although it is rare in nature (but common when in captivity) - can contract and carry salmonella. Therefore just in case, when you touch a turtle to help it cross a road, it is always important to wash your hands!