JSGB thanks Amanda Swick and the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre for this great reminder about the fragility of our turtle populations. Photos contributed by Wye Marsh.
The 8 species of turtles found in Ontario are the Midland Painted Turtle, Snapping Turtle, Blanding’s Turtle, Spotted Turtle, Norther Map Turtle, Wood Turtle, Stinkpot (Musk) Turtle, and the Spiny Softshell Turtle. Midland Painted Turtles and Snapping Turtles are the most commonly sighted turtle species with widespread populations in Ontario which you may see basking along the shorelines of Georgian Bay, at Wye Marsh or at Tiny Marsh. Sadly, all 8 of these species are listed as At Risk, Threatened, or Endangered. Habitat loss and road mortality are the leading reasons why.
Please be watchful for our shelled friends on the roadways, especially in spring during their nesting season. Their dark shells and slow nature often have them mistaken for debris on the road, leading to road morality. Turtles will travel great distances for prime nesting habitat in sandy areas – often on the side of roads in marshy areas. If you see a turtle on the road, please brake providing it is safe to do so and give it space. As well, and again if it safe to do so, you may encourage it across the road from behind, or carefully pick it up with two hands from the middle. Carry it low to the ground so as not to drop it and be mindful of scratching claws.
If the turtle is a Snapping Turtle identifiable by their large size, sharp beak-like mouth, and spikey tail, DO NOT attempt to lift it – they are swift with their powerful bite. Just encourage the turtle to move along from a safe distance.
Protected wetland habitat like Wye Marsh is crucial for our turtle populations. They allow turtles to safely nest and mature to breeding age for the next generation to replenish a healthy population. It is always a happy day standing in the sunshine on the boardwalk at Wye Marsh, scanning the lily pads and cattails for basking turtles. We hope you will join us on the boardwalk to spot the different species who live in Wye Marsh, including Painted Turtles, Blanding’s Turtles, and Snapping Turtles.