Where do the turtles go in the winter?
REGINA – Researchers at the University of Regina and Royal Saskatchewan museum have radio transmitters on the back shells of 23 turtles that allow them to track the animals.
“I go out every day in the summer and try to catch as many turtles as I can and that will hopefully give us an estimate of population size,” explained Kelsey Marchand, a biology masters student.
“Where the turtles go in the winter is one of the questions that I am addressing with the study.”
Western painted turtles at risk of becoming endangered in Canada. The species is native to Saskatchewan and can be found in Regina’s Wascana marsh.
“When I first came here…everyone said, ‘Why are you studying turtles in Regina? We don’t have turtles here,’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, you do!’” Marchand said.
In fact, Marchand and her team discovered the largest painted turtle on record in Wascana this past summer.
Now that summer is over, the question is where do these Saskie turtles go in the winter?
“Where the turtles go in the winter is one of the questions that I am addressing with the study,” said Marchand. “As not a lot of information is known on this for the Wascana population.”
Turtles cannot survive in bodies of water that freeze solid in the winter. Turtles are ectotherms, which means their body temperature is the same as their surroundings (in the winter, a turtle’s body temperatures will reach close to 0C.)
“This means that all bodily functions (circulation, digestion, muscle action) slow down completely and the turtles will then literally chill out on the bottom of the water body,” said Marchand.
So what’s the best time of the year to see the turtles? In the spring when the ice breaks up.