Turtle nesting season is upon us, which means that the likelihood of encountering turtles is all the more probable especially on roadsides.
During your daily commute, keep an eye out for turtles attempting to cross the road, advised the Junction Creek Stewardship Committee in a news release. If you come across a turtle, and if it is safe to do so, stop and help the turtle across in the direction it is facing. Most importantly, please do not remove the turtle from its habitat.
Many turtle species are at risk of extinction, particularly as a result of habitat loss, collection for the pet trade, nest predation and road mortalities. During this time of year, turtles will be travelling greater distances to find a nesting site. Unfortunately, these prime locations are usually found on road shoulders increasing the risk of vehicle collisions.
"Turtles cross the road because they have some place to go" said Dominique Gagnon, an environmental stewardship intern with the Junction Creek Stewardship Committee. “Many turtles crossing the road are females looking for a nesting site. It is vital to the preservation of the turtle populations to take the time to stop and give them a hand, when safe to do so.”
Three species of turtles are found within the Junction Creek watershed. Of these three, two are listed as Species at Risk: Blanding’s turtles are threatened and snapping turtles are of special concern. The midland painted turtle, also found within the watershed, is of stable populations.
Blanding’s turtles have a bright yellow throat and a highly domed shell. Their shell is dark in colour with yellow specks often present. Snapping turtles, on the other hand, are a larger species with a light brown to black shell and a long tail with triangular "dinosaur-like" spikes. It also has a large head with a beak-like jaw.
If you come across a turtle on the road, and if it is able to cross the road unaided due to the lack of oncoming traffic, it is recommended to let them do so. If they require assistance proceed with care; using both hands, Blanding’s and painted turtles should be grasped halfway down their shell.
When encountering a snapping turtle a long object such as a shovel or branch should be used to prompt the turtle along from the back in the direction it is facing, so as to take extra caution due to its aggressive nature. Never pick up a turtle by its tail. Excessive handling of any turtle should be avoided.
If you come across a Blanding’s turtle in the Junction Creek watershed (which includes Garson, Sudbury, Lively, and Copper Cliff), please report your sighting to the Junction Creek Stewardship Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org or 705-525-8736) with the following information: the location of the sighting, a picture if possible and your contact information.