Turtle nesting season underway
The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) is asking people in the Thames River watershed to keep their eyes peeled for at-risk turtles now that the 2017 nesting season has begun.
It’s common to find turtles along roads and in yards and driveways during this time of the year, so the UTRCA is reminding people that seven of Ontario’s eight turtle species are currently listed as at-risk. Even the midland painted turtle, our most common species, is experiencing declines in some areas, according to a UTRCA news release.
There are a few things Londoners can do to help turtles if they encounter them this season.
The UTRCA said it’s important to watch for turtles crossing roadways and recommends helping them to the nearest wetland (regardless of direction) when it’s safe to do so. If you decide to help a turtle cross the road, use care when lifting the animal, keep it low to the ground in case it falls, and make sure your hands and arms are always behind the turtle, away from its head.
If you find a turtle nesting on your property, do not disturb her. The UTRCA said eggs may take 50 to 90 days to hatch and some species stay in the nest until the following spring.
Try to avoid stepping on the nest and know that you’re doing your part in aiding a species in need. Predators destroy many nests but turtles that survive contribute to increasing or maintaining turtle populations in the area.
Finally, the UTRCA said biologists are interested in sightings of three turtle species in particular:
• Spotted turtle (endangered) — A small turtle (10-12 centimetres) with a black shell and small yellow spots.
• Blanding’s turtle (threatened) — A medium-sized turtle (18-23 centimetres) with a black high-domed shell often with yellow flecks and a bright yellow throat.
• Spiny softshell turtle (endangered) — A large-sized turtle (females are 35-46 centimetres and makes are 20-24 centimetres) with a green to brown, flat, leathery shell, a long neck, and long snorkel-like snout.
If you see any of these species, contact Scott Gillingwater, a UTRCA biologist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.