A. Is the Turtle Injured?
- First, record the location (turtles have to be returned to their home territory to survive)
- DO NOT feed them or give them water, and DO keep them dry, out of the sun, in a well ventilated container.
- Do not leave a turtle to suffer. Turtles have nerves running through their upper shells (carapace) and can feel touch as well as pain.
- Turtles can survive massive traumas, can regrow nerve tissue, and be restored to health.
- Call the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre at 705-741-5000
- If you found a turtle (even if you suspect 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.
- In other areas, you can report turtles to Turtle Guardians by calling or texting 705-854-2888.
Keep Wild Turtles in Nature
Turtles have declined more than 50% globally. Turtles losses are due to road traffic, fishing bycatch, habitat loss, poaching, and also because of 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 once in nature! 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 as well as turtles! They are the best janitors and gardeners of our aquatic ecosystems.
Red Eared Sliders
Red Eared Sliders found in nature, are known as "invasive species". They are not native to Ontario, but were typically pets that have been released. Red-eared-sliders can out-compete our turtles as well as carry diseases that can spread to our native turtles. If you spot a turtle with distinctly red ears, retain the turtle, note its location and call us. The turtle may be put up for adoption. If you wish to adopt a red-eared slider pet turtle, there are many opportunities- Check out Little ResQ
B. Is the Turtle Alive? Never Relocate a Turtle.
- If not injured, take note of the location and help the turtle to the nearest safe point close (within 100m/yards) to where they were found.
- Do not relocate the turtle. Turtles have high brain plasticity only until the age of 4. During this time they are making spatial memories of all the routes they walk and the wetlands and lakes that they use. Each area, but especially their hibernation sites, have very special features, and they return to these areas year after year. After the age of 4 turtles cannot readily make new spatial memories and if relocated away from their territories, they may die from stress and related starvation. It is also illegal to relocate turtles in Ontario and most parts of North America. 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!
- In most provinces and many states, it is illegal to keep native turtles as pets.
- Here are more basics from colleagues in Texas: http://www.texasturtles.org/whattodo.html
- And a great fact sheet from our partners at Scales Nature Park: http://www.scalesnaturepark.ca/Downloads/Helping Guide.pdf
C. Is it a hatchling or a nest?
- hatchings of many "box-shaped" turtles come out of their nests in the early spring (rather than in the winter, such as Snapping Turtles).
- Only in the case of a hatchling, it is safe to move the turtle to the nearest wetland or aquatic habitat within 1km of the site it was found.
- Typically, hatchlings are the size of a quarter or up to a dollar coin. Any larger, means that the turtle is a juvenile, and should be treated like any adult; an not moved beyond 200 metres of the location they were found.
D. Is it a nesting turtle?
- Turtle Guardians has many volunteers and staff who assist in watching over and protecting nesting mother turtles, while they are vulnerable. In many cases we can also direct you as to how to protect the turtle nest, and in some cases, we can excavate and incubate the eggs under our wildlife permits, where nests are in dangerous locations.
- Call or text us at 705-854-2888
It is the Law
Turtles can be moved legally up to 200 metres from where they were found, and only when assisting the turtle out of harms way.
All turtles, and including turtle nests, in Ontario cannot be handled (unless helping them out of danger), transported, or kept without special government permits. Turtles and many turtle habitats are protected under legislation in Ontario and Canada.
Snapping and painted turtles are protected under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, and all other turtle species in Ontario are also protected the Endangered Species Act. These species, are also protected and the Species at Risk Act in Canada.
In addition to the turtles themselves being protected, their habitats, including the hibernation sites and nest sites of Threatened and Endangered species are protected under these laws.
In Ontario, under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act fines for handling, relocating or removing turtles from nature, can be $100,000.00. For deliberate harm to turtles fines are up to $25,000.00 or 1 year in jail.
Turtles, especially snapping turtles are some of nature's best janitors! They are scavengers and help clean our water by removing dead and decaying carcasses that are sources of harmful bacteria. Therefore turtles, better than any other species, support the health of our drinking and swimming water.
However, turtles (rare in nature but common when in captivity) can contract and carry harmful strains of salmonella. Therefore, when you touch a turtle to help it cross a road, it is always best to wash your hands.