Hello from Kelly at Think Turtle Conservation Initiative
We are now into the weeks possibly even days leading up to this seasons turtle nests hatching out. This will inevitably mean turtle hatchlings showing up on private property, public property, the ‘ROADS’ and places you may not expect and this will happen soon. Hatchling activity is more commonly associated with rural communities and cottage country, however please do not dismiss the outskirts of urban communities as being a places that hatchlings may show up if your travels take you to such areas.
Based on the many reports of turtles nesting later then usual in late June into July it is likely hatchings will begin to make an appearance mid September. The timing is of course dependent on when the female turtle laid the eggs, the species of turtle thus the length of the incubation period and the temperatures during the incubation period. In a warm year, turtle eggs will develop faster and the hatchings may hatch and emerge as early as mid August. In a cooler year, they may hatch later in the fall. This year has been a bit of a mixed bag starting off extremely hot, followed by consistent warm dry conditions and some regions in Ontario have been experiencing cooler temperatures for several weeks. Point being it is more so a bit of a guess this year but the month of September into October is when we can expect to see hatchlings making a mad dash for their intended body of water.
There are many factors that effect the outcome of the clutch size (number of eggs) and incubation period for the eight species of turtles native to Ontario in regards to nesting variance is usual. Please view the following as a general guideline;
(1) Blanding’s Turtle Painted Turtle – 4 to 13 oval shaped eggs, 60 to 90 days from the date the female turtle nested.
(2) Eastern Musk Turtle ‘Stinkpot’ – 2 to 5 oval shaped eggs 60 to 90 days.
(3) Northern Map Turtle – 7 to 23 oval shaped eggs, 60 to 90 days and hatchlings sometimes remain in the nest cavity until the spring, called ‘overwintering.’
(4) Painted Turtle – 3 to 15 oval shaped eggs, 60 to 90 days and hatchlings often remain in the nest cavity until the spring, called ‘overwintering.’
(5) Snapping Turtle – 6 to 104 round shaped eggs, 80 to 90 days.
(6) Spiny-Soft Shell – 3 to 43 round shaped eggs, 55 to 100 days.
(7) Spotted Turtle – 2 to 8 oval shaped eggs, 55 to 80 days and hatchlings may remain in the nest cavity until the spring, called ‘overwintering.’
(8) Wood Turtle – 4 to 12 oval shaped eggs, 60 to 90 days.
The hatchlings face many challenges once they emerge from their nest to make the journey to their intended body of water. Some hatchlings travels may include crossing a road and the risk of getting run over by a car, in addition to this is the numerous potential predators they could encounter between the nest and their intended body of water. Hatchlings that do make it across a road safely may then have to negotiate terrain obstacles such as curbs or fences, others may die from dehydration on a hot day. By all the powers that be it is hoped that all hatchlings are spotted and intercepted before they attempt to make the dangerous trek across the roads which will also enable them to bypass predators and other challenges they could face.
Being so small, most hatchlings are little more than the size of a loonie and not always that easy to spot on the roads, please be extra focused on the road ahead of you while driving over the coming weeks. If you have passengers with you, enlist them as lookouts. The survival rate for turtle hatchings is less then 1% so any chance of improving on this dismal percentage increases the possibility of more hatchlings reaching adulthood.
If you stop to assist a hatchling, juvenile or adult turtle across the road please pull your motor vehicle completely off the road and on to the shoulder as far over as possible and put your hazard lights on. Braking for turtles and/or any other wildlife is dangerous as is parking your car in the middle of a lane, both can cause accidents and should be avoided. Make safety your #1 priority! Please think of your safety, the safety of any passengers with you and the safety of other motorists on the road. Having a safety vest close at hand in your vehicle is always recommended and not just for assisting turtles, a safety vest will make you more visible while standing on or near a road.
Always move the turtle (hatchling, juvenile or adult) in the direction the turtle is headed. Hatchlings may be little but they have a good sense of where they are going. Admittedly some do seem to end up a little off course and disoriented as mentioned they do face challenges. Always handle hatchlings carefully, their shells are soft and pliable. A firm but gentle grip will suffice while taking take a hatchling to the nearest body of water in the direction the hatchling was headed. Once there please do not release the hatching into open water. There are predators just lying in wait. Scout out the area for a spot that has a shallow area and ideally varying water depths in the vicinity and has vegetation and/or leafy debris that will serve as protective covering for the hatchling. A hatchling will spend much of their early years hiding until they have gained some size and girth and are not so vulnerable to predators.
Sometimes finding the perfect location for releasing hatchlings may not be possible on foot or accessible from the shoreline in which case using hip waders or a canoe could be helpful. As much effort as possible that can go into finding an ideal location for a safe release might just be the factor that significantly increases the chances of survival for the hatchlings you release.
If you encounter an injured turtle (hatchling, juvenile or adult) or have a concern related to the turtle’s well being please call the turtle hospital at the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre 705-741-5000.
It is wonderful to learn of children spending time outdoors connecting with nature. If you have children, grandchildren or spend time with children in a working capacity it is important to teach them that hatchlings observed in the wild should be left in the wild. They are not lonely or looking for their mother or a friend All of the eight species of turtles native to Ontario whether a hatchling, juvenile or adult are not to be taken home as pets, it is in fact illegal to remove turtles from the wild and/or have them as pets. With the excitement of turtle hatchlings and kids please watch kids around the roads near your property.
It is a sad fact but sometimes our beloved pets can cause stress, injury or death to a turtle at varying stages of development (egg, hatchling, juvenile or adult).
There have been unfortunate cases of cats getting a hold of turtle hatchlings newly emerged from their nest or while the hatchlings are on route to their intended body of water. Quite often these circumstances do not end well given the size of the hatchlings and vulnerability of a turtle hatchling versus cat teeth or claws.
The family dog may have never hurt a fly but in the course of routine outdoor activities unfortunately encounters do occur between dogs and turtles (eggs, hatchling, juvenile and adult). Dogs have been known to accidentally dig up turtle nests, eat turtle eggs, view a hatchling, juvenile or adult turtle as a chew toy and in some cases given the dog(s) concerned the encounter surpasses curiosity or playfulness and is an attack on a turtle.
No matter the circumstances these unfortunate incidents come down to our beloved pets acting instinctively at the time. Should any of the circumstances outlined above occur as a result of your cat or dog please do not attempt to treat a wounded or injured turtle yourself or put any ointments on or into the wound or release the turtle back into the water. Turtles have an anatomy much different to humans and no matter how small the injury may seem medical attention from a trained veterinarian should be sought. This is available in Ontario for the Ontario turtles at no charge. If a turtle requires medical attention please call the turtle hospital at 705-741-5000 as soon as possible.
The turtle hospital is officially known as the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC) home of the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre. They admit turtles from all across Ontario. The hospital is located at 1434 Chemong Road, Unit #4 in Peterborough and is presently the only wildlife rehabilitation centre in Ontario dedicated “SOLEY” to providing medical and rehabilitative care to the Ontario turtles. It is Ontario’s ‘TURTLE HOSPITAL.’ Once treated and rehabilitated the turtles are released back into their natural habitat at the point of origin where it is hoped they will live a long life and continue to reproduce for many decades.
Please do not assume that a private animal clinic, wildlife rehabilitator or animal shelter in the area you are located or may be visiting will admit a turtle or is trained to offer turtle first aid or treatment. OTCC works in conjunction with 35 first response private animal clinics and wildlife rehabilitators throughout Ontario that are trained in “basic” turtle first aid and pain management. All injured turtles should be reported to the OTCC. When you speak with the OTCC staff they will assess the circumstances and if necessary they will direct you to the nearest first response team able to administer basic first aid and/or pain management and temporarily admit the turtle until arrangements can be made to have the turtle transferred to the OTCC. The availability of the first response private animal clinics and/or wildlife rehabilitators varies so when OTCC has referred you to one please call the private animal clinic and/or wildlife rehabilitator you were referred to prior to going there to arrange a drop-off time.
If and injury to a turtle was caused by your cat or dog please do not feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to call the turtle hospital. It is unfortunate when and if this happens but by doing what you can to get proper medical attention for the injured turtle this gives the turtle the best possible chance of surviving their injuries. There can be some disfigurement or scaring after a cat/dog encounter but a turtle that can be treated and recovers will then be released back into the wild. This is important to species recovery efforts and ensuring future generations of turtles.
If the injury to a turtle is of a nature that although healed would leave the turtle vulnerable and unable to function to the point of taking care of their basic needs in the wild the turtle would in all likelihood become a teaching turtle. This being a very important role for such a turtle acting as an ambassador for his/her species.
When you phone OTCC to report an injured turtle or concern the trained staff will assess the turtle circumstance you have called about and determine the best course of action. If a turtle needs to be admitted to the OTCC it is always appreciated if you can drive the injured turtle to Peterborough but if you are not able to there is a ‘Turtle Taxi’ and a ride will be arranged via their network of ‘Taxi Turtle’ volunteers. OTCC is always looking for volunteers should you be interested in helping the turtles this way during turtle season. If interested in finding out more information about this please call 705-741-5000 or e-mail email@example.com
. Taxi Turtle volunteers will also have the opportunity to be involved in turtle releases during the turtle season.
Always best to put cats and dogs in the house or in their outdoor enclosure if a turtle nest is hatching out on your property.
With hatchlings showing up anytime soon it is of course realized that you cannot watch your cat or dog every minute while outdoors. Please take extra care if you observe your cat/dog very intently focused on an area in your yard especially if you observed possible nesting activities on your property or public property your cat/dog has access to. If there are any concerns about a hatchling found please call the OTCC.
If you had a turtle nest on your property and you have a nest protector installed based on the date the female turtle nested you should be vigilantly monitoring the nest 2 to 3 weeks prior to the possible hatch out date. Again, sorry I’m not able to offer any exact dates. Couldn’t hurt to enlist help monitoring a nest getting close to the end of the incubation period. If you are going to be going out and not able to arrange for someone to monitor the turtle nest in your absence you should take the exit hole out so the escape route in available to the hatchlings should they show up. If you are going on vacation and are not able to arrange a monitor you should definitely remove the exit hole and consider removing the nest protector if you feel it necessary. Please note that a hatchling can become dehydrated in a short period of time if left in the sun. Hopefully you will get to see the joyous event it really is quite special.
There seems to be no typical pattern to the weather each season. Each year varies from the last. These changes have had an effect on hatchlings in particular the last couple years. As was the case in 2017 many hatchlings emerged very late. I personally drove hatchlings to the OTCC on October 28th. Last year the cold temperatures and winter weather moved in six weeks early as a result hatchlings showing up late did not have an adequate amount of time between hatching and the time they would head into formation (hibernation) to assimilate to their surroundings. Should you find a hatchling or hatchlings late in to October or when temperatures are unseasonably cool please contact the OTCC. Hatchlings under these circumstances may in fact be in adequately prepared to be heading into brumation (hibernation). The OTCC may recommend that the hatchlings spend their first winter at OTTC and be released in the spring when they stand a better chance of assimilating to their habitat and moving forward on their journey. As the finder you would be contacted when the hatchling(s) are ready to be released to see if you would like to be involved with the release.
If per chance the turtle you observed this turtle season nesting on your property or in a location you are monitoring was a painted turtle don’t get upset if the turtle nest you so diligently protected and/or have kept an eye on shows no sign of hatching activity. Incredibly painted turtle hatchlings often spend their first winter in their nest or below the nest cavity only a few inches below the frost line after hatching in the fall. This is a survival strategy known as, ‘overwintering’ used to escape limited food supplies, possible predators, cold temperatures and harsh winter conditions. Ice crystals form around the painted turtles and marginally in them but a self-generated type of antifreeze prevents them from an assured death. They remain in a super cooled state until the spring when the ground thaws and the little turtles emerge from their nest, raring ta go. They could show up on your property, in your garden, all manner of places as well as on the roads.
In addition to the hatchlings arriving soon we can expect to see more turtle activity on the roads in general October to early November. Again timing is in relation to the fall temperatures and weather patterns. October to November is typical when the turtles will be on the move to their winter habitat of choice. For some a short journey for others longer but during these travels there is always a distinct possibility of having to cross the roads.
REPORTING TURTLE SIGHTINGS
Officially reporting any and all hatchling, juvenile or adult turtle sightings dead or alive is very important. This enables conservation agencies and wildlife conservation organizations involved in species at risk studies to identify and better understand the distribution of the various turtle species and the factors that have an effect on their activities. With access to this type of data and research they can identify areas that would most benefit from the installation of permanent mitigation measures such as under passes and fencing as well as assessing the suitability of pre-existing culverts that could be re-worked to serve as an effective mitigation site.
If you are not already reporting turtle sightings please checkout the various citizen science programs (see below) to acquaint yourself with the kind of information you will need to supply. Photo documentation is always recommended to substantiate your sighting and the type of turtle. Note: If taking a photo of a turtle you will be assisting across a road please ensure your safety by taking a photo of the turtle after you have moved the turtle off the road and you are both safely as far over on the shoulder as possible and out of harms way.
For anyone that reports sights on ocassion to the Ontario Reptile & Amphibian Atlas (ORAA) and may have missed the news, the ORAA has transitioned from the data collection phase of thieir project to the data analysis phase. The ORAA app went offline August 15th. If you would like to send any unsubmitted data to the ORAA, you can do so until December 1st. Please submit a spreadsheet to firstname.lastname@example.org
For anyone that was reporting to the ORAA you are encouraged to continue submitting your turtle sightings through the other citizen science program options available to use. People new to reporting sightings should review each program and decide on one. Sightings are only to be reported officially to one of the programs.
Turtle Guardians – The recently launched Turtle Guardians citizen science and recovery program is very user friendly being designed with kids in mind, adults will equally enjoy these features. The latest version of the Turtle Guardian App is live for Android Phones. Now you can report turtle sightings and track how many you helped….also pass the turtle test to get your ID card. For anyone preferring not to report through a mobile device they have an Online Sighting Report Form. You will also be asked if you would like your sighting information sent to government agencies. This would include Natural Heritage Information Centre (NHIC).
Ontario Turtle Tally – This is a fun, easy turtle monitoring project for people of all ages through the Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond Wetlands Conservation Program. It’s a great activity for schools, families, cottagers, and community and naturalist groups across the province. Report your turtle sightings by entering your observations into the on-line database. The purpose is to collect, record and store location and species information on Ontario turtles, including species at risk.
iNaturalist – This Canada-wide citizen science program is a community-based tool. Your observations will be vetted by researchers, experts and other citizen scientists.
Natural Heritage Information Centre (NHIC) – Submit your species at risk observations to the ‘NHIC’ project on iNaturalist by clicking the ‘add observations button’ on the project home page. If you prefer to compile your records in a spreadsheet, email it to the Natural Heritage Information Centre.
Note: The information collected in the various citizen science program databases would be verified and submitted to the Natural Heritage Information Centre (NHIC) after which it is reviewed and entered into the provincial record. Many agencies and researchers use the provincial record to plan, protect and study Ontario’s natural heritage. The information helps natural resources management and conservation decisions in Ontario as well as biodiversity conservation strategies for the Great Lakes region.
It would be greatly appreciated it you could share this post with family, friends and associates and ask them to do the same.
If you have any turtle related questions please do not hesitate to get in touch. If the matter is to do with a live turtle or is time sensitive always best to call my cell 647-606-9537. Other matters it is appreciated if they could be e-mailed or sent via Facebook messenger. I will get back to you.
Over the coming weeks the more people keeping an eye out for the hatchlings and as always the adults and juvenile turtles as well the better! Thank you so much for all your efforts looking for the Ontario turtles this turtle season.
Hoping today is an especially nice day for one and all!
Think Turtle Conservation Initiative
Username: Wallace Kathleen Kelly