Jun 302018
 

This year we’ve had at least four Painted Turtles which all came up late afternoon on June 9th. We covered over three possible nest sites, though one is never sure if eggs have been deposited. One unknown nest excavated in a grassy slope has been raided.

And for the first time we’ve had two Snapping Turtles up from the Indian River. Late afternoon on June 13th, a large Snapper appeared to be depositing eggs in a well crafted nest in our gravelled turning circle right next to a protected Painted Turtle nest, but when she departed a couple of hours later via our front garden she had failed to cover over the excavated nest which for us is unusual. We protected the nest in hopes of a future hatching.

Snapper no.1 – June 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

Snapper no 2 – June 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

House Wren nest – June 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A second Snapper, smaller than the first, was seen wandering about the turning circle about 8 am. on June 18 but there was no obvious sign of any nest. However, on June 19th, a nest unknown to us was raided, As there were still some eggs untouched, we covered it over with the usual chicken wire weighed down by rocks. On the 23rd, the nest was dug up again. A heavy rock had been moved and the chicken wire had been torn apart. We think the culprit was a fox as our trail camera picked up an image heading for the same nest which we had covered yet again, though there is probably nothing left inside. The image is somewhat blurred but taking into account the size of nearby rocks it looks to be a fox. All this time, the protected nest had not attracted any attention so possibly it is sterile.

And another first for us, we have a pair of House Wrens, and a nest has been constructed in one of my hanging baskets on the front porch. There’s been a lot of singing and to and froing from the nest, but I have no idea if a female is sitting on eggs. We’ve avoided using the front door and I’ve been carefully watering the basket once a day using a small plastic jug, tipping the water straight onto the soil at the edge of the pot and away from the entrance. This hasn’t deterred the birds though they are never overly happy when I’m on the porch. It’s interesting that of the three hanging baskets on the porch, the one chosen is the most protected from wind and rain and receives somewhat less sun than the other two. Good choice.

Stephenie Armstrong, Sawmill Road, Warsaw

 

May 312018
 

All eight species of Ontario turtles are now designated as at risk

With the arrival of June, turtles are once again on the move. Unfortunately, this migration often  involves a hazardous trek across busy roads and highways. Clearly, a turtle’s shell is no match for the crushing weight of a motor vehicle. The result is that thousands of turtles are killed or injured by cars and trucks in the Kawarthas each spring and summer. The carnage is devastating for turtle populations, since egg-bearing adult females are usually the victims. On the bright side, an increasing number of people are now aware of the potential presence of turtles on the road and are adjusting their driving accordingly. It is not hard to avoid striking a turtle if you are driving at a reasonable speed and scan the road ahead.

Snapping Turtle digging nest on roadside (Danielle Tassie )

Starting in late May, turtles begin searching out a place to lay their eggs, preferably with well-drained, loose, sandy soil or fine gravel. This helps to explain the popularity of road shoulders as nesting sites. The female scrapes out a hollow with her hind legs before proceeding to deposit the eggs. Painted Turtles lay five to ten white eggs, elliptical in shape and about two centimetres long. Snapping Turtles may lay as many as 70 eggs! They look remarkably like ping-pong balls but are much smaller. When the turtle has finished laying, she uses her hind legs to fill in the hole and press down the earth around the eggs. She then drags her shell over the nest and sweeps the area with her hind feet as if to cover up any sign of her presence.

Peterborough County is home to six species of turtles, although only three, the Painted, Snapping and Blanding’s are commonly seen. Seven of Ontario’s turtle species have been classified by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests as species at risk. The situation for Spotted Turtles is so critical that they are now listed as endangered, meaning they face imminent extinction or extirpation. Both the Blanding’s and Eastern Musk turtles are classified as threatened. The Snapping Turtle, along with the Northern Map Turtle, are designated as species of special concern. Just last month, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) also designated the Midland Painted Turtle as a species of special concern. This means that all of Ontario’s turtles are now at risk of disappearing from the province.

Turtle populations are in decline for a number of reasons. First of all, turtle eggs stand a very poor chance of surviving the long incubation period. Predators such as Raccoons and Striped Skunks usually discover the nests within the first 48 hours after egg-laying, dig up the eggs and enjoy a hearty meal. They leave behind a familiar sight of crinkled, white shells scattered around the nest area. Since these predators tend to flourish anywhere there is human settlement   – Raccoons are probably twenty times more abundant than 50 years ago – very few turtle nests go undiscovered. You can help our beleaguered turtle populations by not feeding Raccoons and by assuring  they do not get into your garbage.

As already mentioned, roadkill is also a very significant cause of turtle mortality, especially during the June nesting season. Killing pregnant females not only removes reproductive adults from the population, but it also means all their potential future offspring are lost as well. According to Dr. Ron Brooks, professor at the University of Guelph, even a loss of 1 to 2% of adults annually from the “extra” mortality of roadkill will eventually lead to the disappearance of local populations.

So, what can drivers do to protect turtles? It’s mostly a matter of slowing down and watching the road carefully at this time of year, especially when travelling near wetlands, lakes and rivers. If you see a turtle on the road, consider stopping and moving it to the shoulder in the direction it was heading. Don’t return the animal to the side of the road it came from, because it will simply turn around and march right back into the traffic. You must, of course, be sure that there is no danger from oncoming cars before you perform this kind of intervention.

If the turtle is small, you can simply carry it across the road. If you are dealing with a Snapping Turtle (which can bite) the safest technique is to push and prod the animal along with a stout stick or shovel. You can also lift or pull the turtle, holding onto the rear of the shell. A Snapper can reach its midpoint so do not pick it up near the middle of the shell. Nor should you ever pick up a turtle by the tail, since this may damage its spine. It is also important not to straddle a Snapping Turtle with your car. Snappers jump up when they feel threatened, thereby hitting the undercarriage of the vehicle as it passes over them. This results in serious head trauma and shearing injuries to the carapace.

As for nesting turtles, you should never dig up a turtle nest in order to protect the eggs. You may damage them and it is also illegal. However, if you find a nest that has been disturbed by a predator, carefully place the eggs back in the hole and bury them, or bring the eggs to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (see below) to be incubated. Record the location of the nest as precisely as possible and be careful to keep the eggs right side up during transport. You can also help to protect new nests by lightly sweeping the surface of the nests (to disperse the scent) or temporarily covering the nest with a board for the first few days. If you have a turtle that is nesting on your property, keep an eye out for hatchlings from late August until snow and then again in spring the next year.

Painted Turtle nesting (Rick Stankiewicz)

Since June 2002, the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTTC) has been saving injured native turtles and releasing them back to where they were initially found. Because so few turtles ever reach sexual maturity – females don’t reproduce until they are 18 years of age – each adult turtle is part of an extremely important group. This is why it is essential to rehabilitate turtles – especially females – that have been injured as a result of run-ins with vehicles. As long as they can avoid human-related threats, turtles can live and breed for decades and thereby perpetuate the species.

If you have found an injured turtle, call the OTCC at 705-741-5000. Do not email because an injured animal needs medical attention as soon as possible. Remember to note the location (road, major intersections and/or distance from a given landmark) where the turtle was found. This is necessary in order to ensure that the turtle can be released back into the wild according to provincial regulations. Carefully place the injured animal in a well-ventilated container – plastic, if possible – with a secure lid. Do not transport turtles in water and do not offer the turtle anything to eat. Be sure to visit the OTTC website at ontarioturtle.ca or drop in at the Centre itself. It is located at 4-1434 Chemong Road, just north of Peterborough.

Nearly all of Ontario’s amphibians and reptiles – snakes included – are in a steep decline. In order to monitor changes in the ranges of these animals and fluctuations in their population numbers, volunteers are needed to submit their observations. Take note of the date and location and report your sighting to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. Observations can be submitted via an online form at ontarionature.org/programs/citizen-science/reptile-amphibian-atlas/  Most importantly, be sure to vote next Thursday for a political party that take species conservation and climate change seriously. This means providing greater habitat protection and assuring adequate funding for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The future of the natural world is in a race against the clock.

 

May 172017
 
This morning, May 17, I spied a tiny Painted Turtle on our paved path, very slowly making its way to the river.  This is the first time we’ve had an overwintering hatchling.  As I was taking it down to the river on my hand, it remained quite motionless unlike previous baby snappers that have hatched in the autumn.  As soon as those snappers got the scent of water, they raised their heads and started crawling from hand to hand to follow the scent.
Once at the river, I held the little one in my hand until it raised its head and showed some interest in its new watery surroundings.  Even after I put it on some sunny moss very near shallow water, it took at least another five or so minutes before it became active, then it slipped into the water.  Home at last!  I do hope it survives.
Stephenie Armstrong
Warsaw
Aug 312016
 

Ontario is home to eight different species of turtle.  Seven turtle species have been designated as Species at Risk. Three species of turtle (in bold) are found in the Jack Lake watershed.

Status of Ontario turtles
Blandings Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
Threatened
Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina)
Extirpated
Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
No Status
Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica)
Special Concern
Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
Special Concern
Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera spinifera)
Threatened
Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)
Endangered
Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)
Endangered
On a provincial basis, turtle observations are stored in the Ontario Herpetofaunal Survey database (Crowley undated).  Prior to 2014 there were records of 4 Blandings turtles, 8 snapping turtles and 10 midland painted turtles in that database. Members of the Jack lake Association have sporadically contributed to this database over the years but a concerted effort was initiated in 2014 to solicit volunteers from around the lake to report turtle observations. Over the past three years (2014-2016) JLA volunteers have made a substantial contribution (recorded observations of 155 individual turtles) to the knowledge of the distribution and general status of turtles in the Jack Lake watershed.  Individual observations, combined with data from the Ontario Herpetofaunal Survey, have been summarized by Kerr (2016).

Turtle Observations from the Jack Lake area (Square 17QK35). Data was derived from the Ontario Herpetofaunal Survey supplemented by observations from volunteers of the Jack Lake Association.

2014: 2 Blandings, 32 Painted, 12 Snapping

2015: 3 Blandings, 58 Painted, 20 Snapping

2016: 5 Blanding, 14 Painted, 16 Snapping

Submitted by Steve Kerr, Jack Lake

Painted Turtle nesting (Rick Stankiewicz)

Painted Turtle laying eggs – Rick Stankiewicz

Snapping Turtle - Rick Stankiewicz (2007)

Snapping Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz

Blanding's Turtle Rick Stankiewicz

Blanding’s Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz

 

Apr 262016
 

About two weeks ago, in the northeastern part of Peterborough County, I saw the following species. APRIL 14: Hubble Road – 3 Eastern Comma butterflies; Sandy Lake Road – 1 Eastern Comma and 1 Mourning Cloak. APRIL 15: Charlie Allan Road – 6 Compton Tortiseshell;  Galway/Cavendish Forest Access Road – 4 Eastern Comma, 2 Mourning Cloak, 2 Compton Tortiseshell and 46 Painted Turtles; Cedarwood Drive – 1 Compton Tortiseshell; Pencil Lake Road – 1 Mourning Cloak; Lou Philips Drive – 1 Mourning Cloak

Jerry Ball

Mourning Cloak - Maple Cr. - Apr. 2014 - Drew Monkman

Mourning Cloak – Maple Cr. – Apr. 2014 – Drew Monkman

Compton Tortoiseshell - Wikimedia

Compton Tortoiseshell – Wikimedia

 

Eastern Comma - Terry Carpenter

Eastern Comma – Terry Carpenter

 

May 162015
 

Today, May 16, I saw two tiny Painted Turtles (hatchlings) on the Trans-Canada Trail east of the bridge at Lily Lake in the west end of Peterborough.

Sophie Monkman

Note: Baby Painted Turtles hatch out of eggs in the fall but don’t actually emerge fromj the ground until the following spring. They spend their first winter in the “nest.” All subsequent winters, however, are spent at the bottom of a pond or other body of water. According to Wikimedia, “The hatchling’s ability to survive winter in the nest has allowed the Painted Turtle to extend its range further north than any other Northe American turtle. The  turtle is genetically adapted to survive extended periods of subfreezing temperatures with blood that can remain supercooled and skin that resists penetration from ice crystals in the surrounding ground.”  D.M. 

Painted Turtle hatchling - Wikimedia

Painted Turtle hatchling – Wikimedia

May 102014
 

I was riding on the trail today in Jackson Park near the new bridge and helped move some baby turtles from the trail to the banks of Jackson Creek. They were about the size of a loonie and covered in mud. I think they were baby ‘snappers.’ Isn’t this early for turtle hatchlings?

Barry Diceman, Peterborough

I think they were probably baby Midland Painted Turtles. Although the eggs hatch in the fall, baby painted turtles usually remain in the nest – underground – until the following spring, when they emerge. They are able to use sugar-based “anti-freeze” compounds to avoid freezing to death. However, they can only do this once. All subsequent winters are spent at the bottom of ponds. I have never heard of Snapping Turtles being able to overwinter in the ground, but I suppose it may be possible. All turtle eggs hatch in the fall as I know.

Midland Painted Turtle hatchling -WikiMedia

Midland Painted Turtle hatchling -WikiMedia