Turtles are Trying to Cross the Road
Spring is in full swing and turtles are out of hibernation and in search of the perfect location to find a mate and make their nest.
Ontario is the turtle diversity hotspot of Canada and is home to eight species of freshwater turtles. Four of them can be found in the Credit River Watershed:
- Common snapping turtle
- Midland painted turtle
- Blanding’s turtle
- Northern map turtle
You can often see snapping turtles and other wildlife crossing the road during nesting season, spanning May to mid-July. Turtles are attracted to the gravel shoulders of roads to lay their eggs. Nesting female turtles of any age may cross roads during early spring and late summer to disperse between their overwintering and breeding habitats. This puts them at risk from vehicles during the entire active season.
Threats to the Snapping Turtle Population
Habitat destruction combined with high mortality rates from crossing the road are significant causes of turtle population decline.
Snapping turtles lay 20 to 40 eggs at a time but only one per cent of eggs survive to adulthood. While natural predators such as skunks and racoons feed on eggs, road mortality is significantly impacting turtle numbers. In Ontario, all eight of our native species are listed as a species–at–risk.
How You Can Help
Watch for turtles while driving. They often look like oil slicks or bumps. Always consider your own safety first, and if safe to proceed, consider the following tips:
- If you see a turtle, slow down. Give it space when passing. Turn on your hazard lights to alert other motorists.
- If it’s safe, help the turtle across the road in the direction it’s travelling. Learn the proper handling techniques and get safety tips from the Canada Wildlife Federation. Remember, snapping turtles can be aggressive. Please use caution.
- If a female turtle is digging a hole with her hind feet, that means she is nesting. Do not disturb her.
- If you find an injured turtle, gently move it off the road into a shaded spot. Do not pour water on the animal. Call the Ontario Turtle Conservation Center or your local wildlife rehabilitation facility for professional advice.
- Be a turtle taxi! You can volunteer to help taxi injured turtles to licensed rehabilitators. Learn more about this program.
Help keep turtles safe. Keep an eye out while driving on roads near wetlands, streams and ponds which are more likely to have turtles crossing.
By Sarah Labrie, Planning Ecologist