Turtle Season: Keep nesting turtles safe

0
50

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

The Outaouais is home to many varieties of turtles, from the more common Painted and Snapping, to less common Northern Map, Eastern Musk, Blandings, Spotted, Eastern Spiny Softshell and Wood.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

The Outaouais is home to many varieties of turtles, from the more common Painted and Snapping, to less common Northern Map, Eastern Musk, Blandings, Spotted, Eastern Spiny Softshell and Wood.
All these species lay eggs in early summer, June being the main month. So, keep your eyes out as you drive because they dig nests in sand or gravel, laying leathery white or cream-coloured eggs.
Adult turtles don’t incubate, protect or raise their young. Instead, after the female lays her eggs, she leaves. The warmth of the sun heats the sandy nest area, incubating the eggs until they’re ready to hatch. Then, out come the baby turtles, crawling out of their shells, digging themselves out of the nest, and venturing into the wild world.
That is, if foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and skunks haven’t dug up the nest to dine on one of their favourite foods.
Because of our Pontiac area backroads’ soft shoulders, females often can be seen digging their nests roadside. And, because both adults – and young –  cross roads we travel on, the carnage is discouraging.
Turtle project to the rescueIn order to capture an inventory of turtle sightings in Quebec, carapace.ca was formed in order to invite the public to report turtles that are seen. A simple form exists on the website where any of us can enter relevant details. This is Citizen Science at its best, where we can gather further knowledge about the existence of turtles throughout the province.
This turtle website was created by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Here in the Outaouais, we are fortunate to have vigilant help from NCC’s biologists, Caroline Gagné and Milaine Saumur (carapace@conservationdelanature.ca), along with the biologist specialist, Daniel Toussaint (danieltoussaint@videotron.ca).
All three invite your questions and comments.
Turtles on the road?
What to do?
At carapace.ca, there’s an extremely helpful 11-point explanation of what to do if you see a turtle on the road.
After reminding us not to endanger ourselves, they explain important points, including how to pick it up – if you really must (say if it’s on a busy road).
First? Don’t pick up a turtle by its tail because it hurts the animal.
Instead? Hold its shell between its legs, with your hands on either side of the shell. Hold it away from your body (tail facing you). Anticipate this wild animal being frightened and defending itself. It may retract into its shell – but its head may start swinging from side-to-side in an effort to bite you; it legs may start “swimming” in mid-air to claw you; and finally, to add insult to potential injury, it will most likely direct a stream of urine towards you.
Still eager to pick it up? If so, do so very carefully, gently, and always take the turtle in the same direction in which it was going. Not back: It will simply try re-crossing the road.
And please, on no account kick it across the road. How would you like that treatment yourself?
Wounded turtle? Outaouais turtle assistance
Sometimes a turtle has been injured by a vehicle. What to do? Contact
the NCC personnel whose e-mails I provided above. You might wish, in June, to carry a large box or plastic container in your car “just in case” so you can transport turtles safely. You don’t want one crawling around in the bottom of your car…
Final caution: don’t relocate for fun.
Don’t, please, do as I did twenty-five years ago and capture a wild turtle, thinking it’d be fun to have one in your farm’s pond. These species are territorial, and they will try to return to their own habitat. Mistakenly, I thought I was doing a “good thing” – but I quickly learned differently from a biologist who chastised me roundly back in 1990. To avoid embarrassment, but more crucially, to avoid harming an animal – please, unless it’s is severely injured – just let it be.
 Identification help
Want to learn how to identify species? In French, go to the Atlas des
amphibiens et reptiles du Québec(http://bit.ly/2r32Eu1); in English, use the Ontario TurtleConservation Centre website (ontarioturtle.ca/turtles).