Grace's Story- Draft in Progress Sept 2022
Known to All
While she was only introduced to us in 2017, Grace was known to locals in Haliburton village for centuries. Artists taking annual courses at the High School grounds would see Grace stroll by during the early summer months. The retired principle of the High School had said he spotted Grace when he went to the same school as a kid. One family in particular would see Grace at their dock, wrestle her to their lawn and take measurements of her carapace (top shell) for their book- a practice done each year for 40 years.
Grace was first reported to us by James Dunsmore, picture here; a resident who found her in front of the High School at rush hour. Grace was blocking traffic.
Getting to Know Grace
Once we were made aware of Grace, we initiated a campaign to alert locals and visitors to be aware of her, as she occupied a busy downtown area. That first year we received three reports; all verified, and were able to take measurements, where we found she was the largest female on record in Cottage Country.
It was this same year, that we got a call from a resident who spotted Grace during a late September evening, on the way back to her hibernation site, and we assisted Grace via wheelbarrow (as she was so heavy) to her brumation wetland along Gelert Road.
Turtles hibernate in the same wetlands year after year for their lives which can be over 300 years by peer reviewed scientific studies. Snapping turtles, in particular, will hibernate within 1 metre of where they rested the year before.
We spotted Grace the next spring emerging from the wetland on the east side of the Gelert Road (private property but zoned EP lands), in May. (see video)
After monitoring the wetland at Gelert road for 3 years and several accounts of Grace, as well as noting other wildlife that are protected under the Endangered Species Act; and after ascertaining that the landowner who had been filling in the circumference of the wetland, was told by the OMNRF that they were not to fill in the open basin- in mid January 2022 the landowner began filling in the open water areas that had iced over and where turtles were known to be hibernating.
After trying to reason with the landowner, and they offered no flexibility, we launched a protest and called the township byalw officer and the MECP- this was a Friday. The Minister called us directly on Saturday at 5pm and had told the landowner to cease filling. Alas, a majority of the open basin was already filled. The bylaw officer was reached on Monday, at which time we were informed that although the wetland was under Environmental Protection zoning, there was nothing within the zoning bylaw to prohibit the filling- and further that there were many gaps in the planning and enforcement portfolios at the township, despite that the Official Plan indicated that these areas were to be protected.
PERMIT IS AWARDED AND REWARD OFFERED
Why is filling of wetlands (especially in winter) equivalent to killing turtles? Why can't turtles be relocated to new sites? Why are individual turtles essential to the health of our lakes and water? And why can't they be replaced readily? Find out these answers and more: Listen to the interview of our COO, Leora Berman, and the CanoeFM's Gabrielle Holmes