Turtles remain widespread in eastern Ontario but they face numerous threats including habitat loss, road mortality, and high rates of nest predation.
Summer 2018 Results!
The summer of 2018 saw the CWF Eastern Ontario Turtle Project expand its work in the greater Ottawa area. Road mortality remains a leading cause of death for the region’s at-risk turtle populations, with over 560 dead turtles found on roads in the area – 68 of which were endangered Blanding’s Turtles. This year CWF staff excavated nests and incubated 10 Snapping Turtle and seven Blanding’s Turtle nests at our CWF Kanata head office.
We released 396 hatchlings from eggs we incubated and 430 in total (we brought Snapping Turtle nests we had excavated to Rideau Valley Wildlife Sanctuary when our incubator was full and released those hatchlings as well). There was a lot of excitement and support from all staff in the Kanata office. We coordinated three staff releases, giving 22 staff members (plus our four turtle team staff) the wonderful experience of releasing turtles back into the wild and seeing our Science team in action. Here are the results of this year’s Eastern Ontario Turtle Project:
- 435 – number of eggs collected
- 396 – number of eggs hatched and released (91% hatching success)
- Blanding’s Turtles – 7 Nests, 97 Eggs, 88 Hatchlings
- Snapping Turtles – 10 Nests, 338 Eggs, 308 Hatchlings
- 644 – number of turtles found on roads this summer
- DEAD: 568 – number of turtles found dead (88%)
- 437 – Painted Turtles
- 68 – Blanding’s Turtles
- 56 – Snapping Turtles
- 6 – Musk Turtles
- 1 – Northern Map Turtle
- ALIVE: 76 – Number of turtles found alive (12%)
- 33 Blanding’s Turtles
- 33 Painted Turtles
- 9 Snapping Turtles
- 1 Musk Turtle
- 11 – Number of injured turtles brought to rehab by CWF
- 5 – Brought to rehab, succumbed to injuries
- 6 – Brought to rehab and released
WHAT WE ARE DOING:
A key focus of our work in this area is to locate additional sites with the Blanding’s Turtle, a threatened species. Simply finding the elusive Blanding’s Turtle can help protect wetlands for a variety of species. In Ontario, locating a single Blanding’s turtle triggers legal protection of all suitable wetlands within up to two kilometres of the occurrence. Locating these individuals therefore is a critical first step in protecting the species and its habitat.
Part of our work in the Ottawa area will involve identifying important nesting areas for turtles. Protecting turtle nests is critical for two reasons. Firstly, nest predation can be extremely high in certain areas so locating these nests and protecting them either by caging or excavating and incubating eggs is of great benefit to the population. Raccoons and other nest predators dig up and eat many of these eggs. In some areas Raccoons capture almost all of the eggs, threatening turtles. Caging these nests can keep out predators and protect the eggs until they hatch. Secondly, nests of Threatened or Endangered turtles result in more stringent legal protection in the immediate vicinity of the nest.
In the first month of our work in the Ottawa area, we found over 200 turtles lost to road mortality. Sadly, 40 of these were Blanding’s turtles.
Mitigating road mortality
Roads are a primary threat to turtles, which is why we are conducting road surveys to identify areas with high concentrations of road mortality. While we all depend upon roads to get where we want to go, we can also make roads safer for wildlife. Fences and crossing structures under roads can allow turtles and other wildlife to get where they want to go. The project will carry out survey and analysis of road mortality to determine these hotspots. Where hotspots are identified, project staff will assess sites for mitigation suitability and preferred methods. These will then be presented to municipal councils for consideration by municipal government for the installation of mitigation measures such as exclusion fencing, culverts, etc.
The public has a major role to play in turtle protection. With primary threats being road mortality and habitat loss, the community can directly help through safe driving practices and reporting sightings to trigger habitat protection and conserve wetlands. The project will continue to engage the local communities through awareness campaigns, presentations, community events and Turtle Blitz events.
We are also conducting road surveys to find areas with high levels of turtle road mortality. While we all depend upon roads to get where we want to go, we can also make roads safer for wildlife. Fences and crossing structures under roads can allow turtles and other wildlife to get where they want to go.
Part of our work in the Ottawa area will involve identifying important nesting areas for turtles. Raccoons and other nest predators dig up and eat many of these eggs. In some areas Raccoons capture almost all of the eggs, threatening turtles. Caging these nests can keep out predators and protect the eggs until they hatch.