Don't leave them to suffer.
Do not leave a turtle to suffer or succumb to predators. Turtles have nerves running through their upper shells (carapace) and can feel touch as well as pain. They can also lose 70% of their blood and still recover. Never presume a turtle is dead. You can take the turtle with you and someone can meet you!
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 immediate heat, in a well ventilated container.
Call the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre at 705-741-5000 (home of Ontario's only Turtle Hospital). The OTCC has many volunteer turtle-taxi drivers who can meet you wherever you are at to retrieve and relay the turtle to the hospital.
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.
If you need assistance beyond these resources, we may be able to help. Text us at 705-854-2888.
Never Relocate a Turtle.
Crossing the road? If it is safe to stop and help, help the turtle in the direction to where they were heading (see how to help snapping/softshell turtles)
Unsure/in the middle of the road? If it is safe to do so, watch the turtle by keeping at least a car length away and see if they "show you" which side they are headed to. Otherwise, Google the nearest water source on either side of the road, then carry the turtle staying close to the ground (turtles use earth magnetics to help them navigate) and set them down gently. If they move easily and freely further off the road, this is likely the direction they were heading to.
On the shoulder or in nesting season? Nesting season in eastern N. American is late May to early July. At this time mother turtles may be nesting on roadsides, and will often do a U-turn back to the wetlands behind her, once she is finished. If the turtle is actively nesting, do not spook her and give her a wide berth and text us at 705-854-2888. If she is walking, she will be wobbly and slow. In this case, watch her to see if she is turning around and help her in the direction she is heading.
Do not relocate the turtle or take them home as pets. This is both illegal and may be harmful to their survival. Turtles make spatial memories of their territories, including the routes they take and hibernation sites they use. This territory is essentially like their language. They only have a small window of opportuntity to make these memories when young, and the older they get the more difficult it is for them to adjust to new areas; it is like asking them to learn a new language overnight.
Keep wild turtles wild: Each is essential to the population. For instance, studies conducted by scientists 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
Give her space and text us.
Nesting mothers are vulnerable and need a wide berth to feel safe and finish nesting.
Turtle Guardians have 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
Turtle Guardians is now runs the third largest turtle-egg incubation program in Ontario!
Red Eared Sliders are known as "invasive species" in much of eastern N. America. They were typically pets that have been released and are now out-competing native turtles. They also can 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
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.
It is the Law
Turtles cannot be relocated or taken as pets. They can however be helped and this can be moving them typically no more than 200 metres from where they were found (again, when assisting the turtle out of harms way).
All turtles, and including turtle nests, in Ontario cannot be interfered with, transported, or kept without special wildlife 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. Also, turtles can carry diseases that, while not affecting humans, can spread between turtles. Therefore, when you touch a turtle to help it cross a road, it is always best to wash your hands.