Vehicles are a major threat to turtle populations
August 23, 2017 – Collisions between motorists and turtles are a serious concern
in Canada. These can happen on back roads on the way to the cottage and on busy
roads in major centres, like the GTA. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is
asking drivers to help protect these turtles, if safe to do so.
NCC has produced a video with tips on how drivers can help return wayward turtles
to safety. Seven of Ontario’s eight different turtle species are listed as at risk
in the province. One of the major threats to turtle populations is being hit by
Turtles use roads to bask in the warmth and lay eggs on the shoulder. The death
of one adult turtle has a big impact on the population as a whole. It takes turtles
about 20 years to reach reproductive age. Once they reach that age they can lay
hundreds of eggs throughout their lifetime. A loss of one adult turtle is the loss
of 20 years of development.
“Turtles are not just adorable, they’re an important part of wetland ecosystems,”
said Kristyn Ferguson, NCC conservation scientist. “They help keep wetlands clean
and healthy by eating dead plants, insects and animals, and play the role of the
Tips and facts:
- Make sure the road is safe for you to pull over and help. Put your safety first.
- Move the turtle in the direction it was going, otherwise it will likely try to cross
- For turtles that hide their heads in their shells (like the Blanding’s turtle and
the Midland painted turtle), simply pick the turtle up and carry it across the road.
- Snapping turtles weigh as much as 34 kilograms (75 pounds) and have heavy, spiked
tails and massive armoured shells. These turtles cannot hide their heads in their
shells and have a dangerously sharp snout. To move them and avoid injury, lift using
the “handles” on either side of their tales on the back of their shells and “wheelbarrow”
them across the road on their front legs.
- Pushing or shoving turtles across roads with your feet or sticks isn't advisable.
Their shells aren't as thick underneath, and rough pavement can do a lot of damage.
- Other threats to turtles include habitat loss, invasive species and illegal collection
for the pet trade.
A video demonstrating these tips, related comments by Kristyn Ferguson and high-quality
turtle B-roll for use can be found
in this link. Video credit – Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Instructional video on YouTube
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading not-for-profit, private
land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas
and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect
2.8 million acres (more than 1.1 million hectares), coast to coast.
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