It’s high season for turtles to set out in search of the perfect nest

It’s high season for turtles to set out in search of the perfect nest

If you are driving near the water in the Senneville area, you might want to keep an eye out for wandering turtles. It’s high season for female turtles to be setting out in search of the perfect nesting spot.

A female can travel as far as five kilometres to find her spot and the quest sometimes involves crossing busy roads. On occasion, the nesting spot turns out to be on the gravel shoulder of a road. Turtles like gravely nests.

World Turtle Day is May 23. Nature Conservancy Canada used the occasion to announce the addition of two Quebec islands — Île-Hébert and Île-Reid — to its growing list of protected areas for vulnerable species. Both islands are popular nesting grounds for turtles.

The peak season for turtles is between May to September, with June being the most popular time for nesting.

“Every year the females set off on an adventure,” NCC Quebec program director Caroline Gagné said. “They like sand and gravel and the spot has to have the right smell.”

To encourage public involvement in the reporting of turtle activity, the NCC has launched the interactive web page People are asked to take a photo of the turtle, note its location and post the information. The data will help researchers identify new travel habits and nesting sites.

Gagné said nests on the side of the road should be left where they are. It is dangerous for the hatchlings because they may wander out into the road, but the nest must be left alone. If a nest is discovered in a back yard, it can be covered with an inverted wire basket with the bars spaced widely enough for the hatchlings to pass through. This protects the nest from predators.

“If we see that more turtles are crossing a road at a particular spot we can install a (low) turtle fence which will guide the turtles away to a more secure nesting or crossing spot,” Gagné said.

The interactive platform was made possible by the Quebec Turtle Recovery Team, the Fondation de la faune du Québec and the Quebec government’s wildlife department.

“Turtles are like humans in some ways,” Gagné said. “They don’t start reproducing until their 20s and they live until into their 70s. It is very important to protect the adults so that the population can thrive.” (The oldest turtle on record died at age 188.)

Île-Hébert is named for Norman D. Hébert who donated to the Canadian Ecological Gifts Program.

The .45 hectare island is on Lac des Deux Montagnes near Senneville — 1 km south-east of Île-aux-Tourtes — and has 420 metres of crescent-shaped shoreline which is ideal for turtle sun-basking because the crescent shape forms a natural barrier against waves and wind.

The 28-hectare Île-Reid is in the Ottawa River near the Quebec-Ontario border — around 90-minutes north west of Ottawa. It offers shelter to vulnerable species including the map turtle and the bald eagle.

People are welcome to visit the islands to observe the turtles, but no motorized vehicles are allowed in the vicinity.

World Turtle Day was established 17 years ago by American Tortoise Rescue to promote turtle and tortoise conservation. To date, the NCC has protected the habitats for eight at-risk species of turtles.