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It's Turtle Nesting Season in Northern Ontario

Blanding's turtle are crossing roads, in search of nesting grounds.
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It's Turtle Nesting Season in Northern Ontario

The snow has melted, buds are appearing, tulips are sprouting and ... turtles are on the move.

It's turtle nesting season in Northern Ontario, which typically happens between May and July. This means there will be more turtle sightings as these mostly aquatic reptiles are searching for a nesting ground on land, but it also means the turtles are facing the highest fatality risk of their lives.

Besides the vulnerability turtles face from predators in nesting season, as the females travel from point A to point B, they risk being run over by vehicles when crossing roads and highways, or if she is attempting to use the loose gravel on the shoulder of the road as her nest.

In Northeastern Ontario, there are four commonly found turtles, three of which are listed under Environment Canada's Species at Risk.

Types of Turtles found in Northeastern Ontario 

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Blanding's Turtle

Status: Threatened

Description: Adults are usually 13 - 18 cm, and can be identified by their yellow chin and belly. 

Habitat: Typically live in soft bottom ponds, with dense vegetation. Commonly seen roadside. 


Northern Map Turtle

Status: Special Concern

Description: They are anywhere from 9 - 18 cm long. They can be identified by the serrated edge on their backs, and yellow stripes on their head and torso.

Habitat: The Northern Map Turtles typically live near larger, clear, slow-moving rivers which stem from the great lakes. 

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Midland Painted Turtle

Status: Not Listed

Description: Generally 10 - 25 cm long, the central located midland is the hardest to distinguish of the three subspecies of the painted turtle. The shell is an olive green colour, with red or dark orange markings on the enlarged scales on the shell, as well as red and yellow stripes on the head and neck. However, the midland differs by its bottom shell, which has symmetrical dark shadows in the center that can vary in size and prominence.

Habitat: Painted turtles inhabit ponds, marshes, lakes and slow-moving creeks that have a soft bottom and provide abundant basking sites and aquatic vegetation.


Common Snapping Turtle

Status: Special Concern

Description: Largest fresh-water turtles in Canada. They are anywhere from 20 - 47 cm in length, and can identified by their size, claws and serrated tails. We don't recommend you pick up a snapping turtle, as there is no safe place to put your hands, and they do have the tendency to - snap.

Habitat: The Common Snapping Turtle prefers slow moving water, with plenty of vegetation. 

To help preserve the turtle populations, drivers should keep an eye out for turtles attempting to cross the road, and when safe to do so, take the time to stop and give them a hand, by way of carrying them low to the ground and in a straight line to the other side of the road, in the direction it was facing.

In the case you are dealing with a snapping turtle, or another aggressive species, try coaxing it across the road by gently nudging the turtle from behind, or use that "snap" to your advantage by using a stick and slowly drag it across. 

Attempting to return the turtle to the side it came from will only create more miles for the turtle, and increase its chances of being run over, again. As well, never remove the turtle from its habitat and try placing it in one you feel would better suit it.

If you come across an injured turtle, call it in to a local wildlife rehabilitation centre, who will assess the situation, provide proper handling instructions, and take the steps to have the turtle delivered to the appropriate centre for treatment.

Your Northeastern Ontario wildlife refuge centres are:

Wabi River Wildlife
Uno Park Road, New Liskeard, ON P0J 1P0

Wild at Heart Wildlife Refuge
95 White Road, Lively, ON P3Y 1C3

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