Turtles do not need to change their behaviour, humans do, check out our website for more ideas on turtle conservation and things you can do to help tomorrow’s turtle populations in our watershed communities at www.cloca.com.
We are changing peoples' behaviour with road signage, workshops and turtle monitoring.
Thanks to a generous donation from the Shell Environmental Fund, Central Lake Ontario Conservation is the coordinator of the Turtles for Tomorrow Stewardship Program. The intent of this program is to help our constituents identify, monitor and protect native turtle populations in our watershed and at 3 Provincially Significant Coastal Wetlands in the communities of Whitby, Oshawa and Clarington. The 3 wetlands are Lynde/ Cranberry Marsh, Pumphouse Marsh and Westside /Bowmanville Marshes. This fact sheet is designed as a quick reference and resource for participating as a Citizen Naturalist in our program. Good luck and if you have any questions or ideas about how to improve this program, or want more information, please contact us at 905-579-0411 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gonzo, "a turtle-in-the-box" leaps to freedom at Turtles for Tomorrow Workshop at the South Oshawa Community Centre.
|Some Fast Facts On Turtles
- Turtles are reptiles because they exhibit the following characteristics; they are cold blooded, reproduce through hard shelled eggs, require internal fertilization for reproduction and have scales. The young are exact replicas of their parents and do not transform through various life stages like insects or amphibians.
- There are only 8 species of turtles in Ontario, and all but 1 species, are considered Species at Risk (SAR)
- They live in a variety of habitats including wetlands, lakes, rivers and woodlands and have evolved over the last 300 million years to survive in both aquatic and terrestrial environments.
Turtles are often found in a variety of wetland and upland habitats, but will leave their home wetland and travel up to 1 km to a suitable nesting site, even if it means crossing roads.
- Turtle species can easily be identified by size, colour, markings, shell (top and bottom)and habitat location,
- Turtles can be observed swimming, mating, egg laying, walking or basking in their natural environment, except in wihter because they hibernate.
- Turtles reach sexual maturity on average at 10 to 25 years, depending on the species.
- Females generally lay their eggs in sandy and or gravel areas very close or very far away from their home habitat. Each species has different nesting requirements.
A female turtle laying her eggs requires a lot of concentration and should not be distracted.
- Loss and fragmentation of habitat, predators ( skunks, raccoons and other wildlife will dig up the nests and eat the eggs and young) and roads are the biggest threats to turtle populations during nesting and migration activities.
- Turtles are also subject to illegal collection for the pet industry and for food consumption. These two activities, along with a fear of certain species like snapping turtles, have had a significant impact on populations.
- Non native turtles like the red-eared slider, which are purchased through the pet industry, are often released in local waterways when they grow too large for the home environment. This has displaced our native turtle populations and introduced them to new bacteria and viruses.
Want to know more about turtle anatomy? These terms below will soon be complimented by a hands-on visual display of the Carapace (upper shell) and Plastron (lower shell) and these various parts.
- Chelonian: Designates a member of the reptilian order Chelonia, made up of turtles and tortoises.
- Tortoise: Designates terrestrial turtles.
- Terrapin: Designates aquatic turtles.
- Beak: the horny upper and lower jaws of a turtle.
- Cloaca: Cavity which serves as intestinal, urinary, and genital tract in Reptiles, amphibians, birds, and fish.
- Carapace: The upper portion of a turtle's shell.
- Scute: Horny, scale like structures on the turtle's shell. The scutes are made of keratin, like fingernails, and are sensitive to the touch.
- Gular scutes: A frontal projection on the turtle's plastron.
- Anal scutes: A pair of scutes located at the rear end of the plastron, protecting the cloaca.
- Annuli: Rings that form on the scutes, which can be counted to determine a turtle's age.
- Plastron: The underside of a turtle's shell.
- Bridge: The section of the turtle's shell where the carapace and plastron are connected.
- Seam: lines in between the scutes
- Keel: Ridge on the turtle's carapace which goes from the front to the rear.
- Ovipositor: A soft tube that extends from the cloaca to facilitate egg-laying.
How can you help turtles?
Riverview Park and Zoo
- Drive your car less, especially through natural areas and at dawn and dusk when wildlife like turtles are most active and crossing the road. If you do see a turtle on the road, and it is safe, stop traffic until the turtle gets to where he or she is going.
- If you find a turtle that is injured, contact the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre in Peterborough at 705-741-5000. You will have to collect the turtle and deliver it to the Centre so be prepared to commit to the travel time and cost of gas. It helps to carry an old shovel, large box or Rubbermaid container, gloves and the phone number and directions to the Trauma Centre. Please have a look at the video on how to handle an injured turtle on their website at www.kawarthaturtle.org. The address for dropping off an injured turtle is below. They are open Monday to Sunday from 8am to 4pm. When you get there, look for a yellow zoo truck to find staff. Keeping a turtle for a day or two can be done if you cannot drop it off right away, just ask us how?
1230 Water Street North
Peterborough, ON K9H 7G4
or call 705-748-9301 ext 2320
Dead snapping turtle and injured snapping turtle.
- Use environmentally friendly organic products around your home and garden so that we don’t pollute our water resources. This will benefit you as well as the aquatic wildlife we find in our creeks, lakes and wetlands.
- Get involved in public consultations for new and existing road construction in your community. Roads can be better designed for wildlife, providing a long term cost benefit to your local municipality, reducing risks to drivers and sustaining local biodiversity.
- Report turtle sightings and help with nest protection projects in Provincial Parks and Conservation Areas in your community.
- Do not collect live native turtles it is against the law. Do not purchase live turtles for pets, especially if you cannot commit to caring for that turtle over its lifespan. Pet turtles can average an 8 to 12 year lifespan, but in some cases well exceed that. Some wild turtles have been recorded as living to 200 years old.
- Help restore or protect a wetland in your community by creating habitat or building nesting protection structures.
Residents of Port Darlington created turtle habitat, installed road signage donated from S.H.E.L.L. and nest protection structures in 2007.
Installing turtle basking logs with 2011 Summer Students in Pumphouse Marsh. Photo Credit: Andrew Cunning.
Volunteers building turtle nesting protection structures from kits made by Courtice Secondary High School, CLOCA 2011 Earth Day Event Pumphouse Marsh.
Help the Turtles
Now that you know more about turtles, we would like you to consider helping us with a couple of our Turtles for Tomorrow Stewardship Projects. Click here to find out more about how you can become a Citizen Naturalist.
Turtle Monitoring and Reporting Your Observations
Because turtles are slow moving they are easily observed and offer a lot of distinct visual features that make identification quite easy for the novice. To that end, we offer you two online monitoring programs which collect observation data from Citizen Naturalists across the Province of Ontario. The Toronto Zoo coordinates a program called Turtle Tally and Ontario Nature coordinates a similar program called the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas.
PROVINCIAL TURTLE MONITORING OBSERVATION PROGRAM
Ontario Turtle Tally – www.torntozoo.com/adoptapond - link to survey
This program offers an online opportunity to report on turtle sightings. You must be able to identify 8 of Ontario’s native turtle populations and 1 of Ontario’s non native turtles, the red-eared slider.
You will be asked to document the date of the observation, location, habitat type, turtle behaviour, your personal information and using their online mapping tool, provide the latitude and longitude and GPS coordinates for your sighting. Participants in this program will be provided with a Turtle Tally Package which is free and includes a Turtles of Ontario Identification Guide, Turtles of Ontario poster, a pamphlet, magnet and information on the Toronto Zoo’s Frog Watch monitoring program.
The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas Project – www.ontarionature.org/atlas - link to survey
This program, like the Ontario Turtle Tally, offers and online opportunity to report turtle sightings. You must be able to identify 8 of Ontario’s native turtle populations and 1 of Ontario’s non native turtles, the red-eared slider.
You will be asked to document the date of the observation, location, habitat type, turtle behaviour, your personal information and latitude and longitude, using their on line web tool. There is an additional optional section for more detailed information to assist researchers and wildlife managers to learn more about turtles and how to better protect them.
CENTRAL LAKE ONTARIO CONSERVATION TURTLE OBSERVATION PROGRAM
Online Turtle Nesting Data Form
This program offers an online opportunity to report on turtle sightings in our watershed and the areas surrounding 3 Provincially Significant Wetlands, Lynde Shores/Cranberry Marsh in Whitby, Pumphouse Marsh in Oshawa and Bowmanville/Westside Marsh in Clarington. These wetlands are located in the Regional Municipality of Durham in the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority jurisdiction. You must be able to identify 3 of Ontario’s native turtles and 1 of Ontario’s non native turtles, the red-eared slider. There is a section that offers opportunities for reporting other turtle species, however based on our current understanding, these are the only turtle records we have at this time. We will provide you with a free turtle monitoring kit that includes a variety of resources including a Toronto Zoo Turtles of Ontario Identifier. Quantities are limited.
This online survey will ask you for your personal contact information, the date of the observation, municipality, Conservation Area if applicable and the activity of the turtle. If you are part of our Nesting Structure Program you will be asked for more specific information about the placement of the structure, and the condition of the nest and whether it was predated.
Photo Credits: left to right H. Crowley, Heather Pankhurst, Patricia Lowe, Yvonne Storm, Patricia Lowe, Jackie Scott.
We will submit all of the observations collected from you to both the Ontario Turtle Tally and the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas Project.
Midland painted turtle basking Female snapping turtle leaving her nest
Predated nest Snapping turtles mating
Injured female snapping turtle Dead snapping turtle
Nesting Structure Protection Program
Instructions - Nesting Structure Placement
The month of May and June are turtle nesting times when you are likely to witness a female turtle travelling to or actually nesting. The female usually nests at dawn or dusk and unfortunately, due to loss of nesting habitat in the home wetland, often finds the road shoulder a suitable location. She digs the nest with her hind legs and deposits about 40 eggs, covers them up and heads back to the home wetland, often crossing roads in the process. The eggs are on their own for up to 16 weeks depending on the species and they hatch in August or September. Without any maps or directions, the young turtles travel back to their mother’s home wetland. The eggs and the baby turtles are extremely vulnerable and are often predated by other wildlife like skunks, raccoons and foxes that make a quick meal of the eggs when they are laid or the young when they hatch.
One of the techniques used by conservationists to improve the survival rate of young turtles is to secure a turtle nesting protection structure over the nest for a period of 14 days. This significantly reduces the risk of predation. Carrying the young back to the home wetland when they hatch and emerge from the nest is another way to help. It usually takes 14 to 16 weeks for the eggs to hatch. Please note, do not excavate a nest site at any time, as often the turtles will hatch in August and September and remain in the nest – i.e. hibernate until the following spring.
Turtle nesting protection structures should be placed on the nest prior to any opportunities for predation by other wildlife, less than 24 hours is ideal, but within minutes is best. If your nesting site shows signs of being predated it will look like this. There is no harm in placing a nesting protection structure over a predated nest, as there may be one or two eggs that survived the trauma. We ask that you report your nest protection structure location through our Turtles for Tomorrow online survey at www.cloca.com/turtlesfortomorrow
A female snapping turtle laying her eggs in her nest and a turtle nesting structure demonstrating the proper placement over the nest. Ideally install as soon after the eggs are laid and the female turtle has left the location and before neighbouring wildlife has an opportunity to predate the nest.
Volunteers build our nesting structures.
Turtle Nesting Structure Placement Instructions
The turtle nesting protection structure is easy to install, if you follow these simple directions. We recommend you wear a pair of heavy leather gloves to avoid cut wire ends during all handling of this unit.
1) Take your wood frame wire nesting protection structure and place the open bottom side onto the ground, centred on the nest. If the wire is flush with the ground, then you have installed it upside down.
2) Gently hammer in the 4 galvanized spikes in each of the 4 corners of the structure. If this is not possible due to paving or other impervious surface, weight the four corners with bricks and or stones to secure. This step can be done in combination with the galvanized spikes to reduce risk of predation. Install a wire flag in one corner to allow you and others to identify its location. If you think the flag will only encourage vandalism, then do not install it.
3) Your turtle nest protection structure does not require anything additional like a blanket or plastic cover. Remember, the purpose of this unit is to reduce predation. The turtle eggs need moisture from rain, and warmth from the sun to incubate.
4) Report your location of the nesting structure on our website at www.cloca.com.
5) You can remove the unit after 14 days and return to Central Lake Ontario Conservation during office hours 8:30 to 4:30 Monday to Friday at 100 Whiting Avenue, Oshawa ON. If this is not possible, please contact us at 905-579-0411 ext 126 to make alternate arrangements.
Baby turtles should emerge in August or September about 14 to 16 weeks after the eggs are laid. Sometimes, they may not emerge until the following spring. Please do not disturb the nest, but visit it weekly to report on nesting activities, predation and vandalism.
Thank you for your support in the Turtle’s for Tomorrow Stewardship Program.
To get your free turtle nesting protection structure and instructions for placement, contact us at email@example.com 579-0411 ext 126.
Thanks to our Funder
Shell Environmental Fund
Thanks to our Partners
Region of Durham
Municipality of Clarington
Town of Whitby
City of Oshawa
Friends of Pumphouse Marsh
Port Darlington Residents Association
Thanks to our Volunteers
Central Lake Ontario Conservation is a member of
What we do on the land is mirrored in the water.