Sep 222017
 

Myriad threats and declines evident in the Kawarthas, too

Living in a country as big and relatively unpopulated as Canada, it might come as a surprise that much of our wildlife is in serious decline. This was made abundantly clear last week when World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF) released its annual Living Planet Report.

WWF studied 3,689 population trends for 903 monitored vertebrate species (mammals, fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles) in Canada, for the period 1970 to 2014. Using this database, they developed a national Living Planet Index – similar to a stock market index – to reflect how Canada’s wildlife is faring. The findings surprised even WWF: Half of the monitored species (451 of 903) are in decline, and of these declining species, the average drop is a whopping 83 per cent. Even more surprising, the numbers for at-risk species – those protected by the Species at Risk Act, or SARA – are even worse. SARA-listed populations have continued to decrease by an average of 28% and the rate of decline is actually increasing – all of this, despite protections afforded by the act.

Mammal populations have decreased by 41%, fish by 20% and reptiles and amphibians by 34%. Although overall bird populations have increased slightly, there are widely differing trends. Since 1970, grassland birds (e.g., bobolinks, meadowlarks) have plunged 69%, aerial foragers (e.g., swallows, swifts, flycatchers) have fallen 51% and shorebirds (e.g., plovers, sandpipers) have decreased by 43 %.

One of the most troublesome population declines in Canada’s central region, which includes Ontario, is that of reptiles and amphibians. These include snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs and salamanders. The study looked at 73 monitored populations of 28 species. Habitat loss, in combination with fragmentation (i.e., dividing the landscape up into smaller and more isolated parts), road mortality and pollution are some of the major threats to these animals. Freshwater fish have also taken a beating. Looking just at Lake Ontario, fish populations declined 32 per cent, on average, between 1992 and 2014. Later this fall, I hope to do a column on the status of local fish populations.

Losses in the Kawarthas

Unfortunately, the Kawarthas is not immune to these declines, either. A brief look at four iconic species is very telling.

1. Snapping turtle: Although snapping turtles can live for more than a century, they take up to 20 years to reach breeding age. Therefore, the loss of even one turtle can have a big impact on the population. Threats include habitat loss and degradation as well as road mortality. This year has seen a huge spike in turtle deaths and injuries, mostly because of collisions with cars and boats. As of August 16, the total number of turtles brought to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre in Peterborough was close to 800! This included 273 snapping turtles. The Centre has never seen so many injured or dead turtles. One very large snapping turtle was classified as “attacked by human”. A large metal rod was removed from the turtle’s shell, but internal injuries led to its demise. Snapping turtles are currently listed as a species of Special Concern under SARA.

Snapping Turtle digging nest on roadside (Danielle Tassie )

2. Little brown bat: Bats have been suffering for years from habitat destruction and persecution. Now, they are up against white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that arrived in the Kawarthas about six years ago. The disease causes the bats to awaken too early from their winter sleep. Early awakening depletes their body reserves of stored water, electrolytes and fat, and they end up dying. White-nose syndrome has already wiped out 94 per cent of little brown bats in eastern Canada. This may be the most rapid mammal decline ever documented. Large numbers of little brown bats used to overwinter in abandoned mine shafts in the Bancroft area and even some in the Warsaw Caves. The little brown bat was emergency-listed as Endangered under SARA in 2014.

Little Brown Bat with White Nose Syndrome – Wikimedia

3. Bobolink:  These sparrow-like birds are a joy to see and hear. The males have a distinctive jet-black front and big patches of white. They were once a common sight in meadows nearly everywhere in the Kawarthas. The intensification of farming operations, however, has resulted in widespread loss and deterioration of their old field and meadow habitat. Because they nest in hay fields, they often lose their eggs or young to mowing. Bobolink populations in Canada have crashed by 88 per cent in just 40 years. In 2017, a SARA listing was proposed for this species as Threatened.

Male Bobolink – Wikimedia

4. Barn Swallow: For anyone growing up on a farm or spending time at a cottage in the Kawarthas, barn swallows used to be a constant presence in summer. They would dart gracefully over fields, barnyards and open water, swooping effortlessly to catch insects. They were taken as much for granted as robins are now. Between 1970 and 2014, barn swallows declined by 66 percent in Ontario. Although not yet fully understood, the causes for the decline include loss of nesting and feeding habitat, along with what appears to be a reduction in insect numbers. Insect decline may be linked to pesticides, which often end up in water bodies where insects breed. Barn swallows are now listed as “threatened” on the Species at Risk list in Ontario. This means that the bird is likely to become endangered if the appropriate steps are not taken.

Barn Swallow (Karl Egressy)

As we have seen from these profiles, wildlife declines are being driven primarily by habitat loss. This comes mostly from the impacts of forestry, agriculture, urbanization and industrial development. Other threats include climate change (Canada’s warming is twice the global average); pollution (e.g., pesticides, agricultural runoff, heat and noise pollution); invasive species (e.g., zebra mussels) and unsustainable harvest (e.g., overfishing). These effects are cumulative and cascading. For example, changes in the status of one species (e.g., insects) often lead to changes in others (e.g., insect-eating birds).

You don’t have to look far to see these threats playing out in the Kawarthas. Regardless of the merits of a given project or practice, wildlife are almost always on the losing end. In terms of habitat loss, housing developments (e.g., Lily Lake, Television Road, Millbrook)  destroy habitat for grassland birds; hedgerow removal (e.g., Keene area) is eliminating nesting sites for birds as well as pollinators; widening Rye Street will undoubtedly impact Harper Creek brook trout; new or expanded cottages and homes on the Kawartha Lakes is degrading nesting habitat for loons and spawning sites for walleye; a proposed housing development adjacent to Loggerhead Marsh will almost certainly effect amphibians; population growth, along with new roads (e.g., 407 extension, widening of Pioneer Road ) is resulting in more road mortality for turtles; Peterborough’s new casino will degrade the habitat value of Harper Park because of light and  noise pollution, along with increased traffic; and the replacement of old barns with new, less nesting-friendly structures, is impacting barn swallows. Non-native invasive species such as Phragmites and dog-strangling vine are thriving in the Kawarthas and choking out native vegetation in the process. Another invasive, the emerald ash borer, is decimating ash trees. Climate change, which actually accelerates the growth of many invasive plants, is already making the Kawarthas too warm for formerly common birds like gray jays. Climate change-related weather extremes, such as the drought we experienced last summer, are further weakening many tree species, which are already under siege by fungal diseases. These include butternut, beech and elms.

The relentless march of housing developments into rural land. Parkhill Road at Ravenwood Drive in Peterborough, Ontario  (Drew Monkman photo)

Taking Action

The findings of WWF-Canada’s national Living Planet Report make it clear we need to do more to protect species at risk. We also need to halt the decline of other wildlife before they land on the at-risk list in the first place. We need action from communities, industry, government and individuals. As a nation, we need to do a better job collecting and sharing data on ecosystem health and species habitat. We must also enhance research on the impacts of, and response to, climate change; strengthen implementation of the Species at Risk Act and shift toward ecosystem-based action plans instead of a species-based approach. Expanding Canada’s network of protected areas is also crucial.

None of this will happen – or happen fast enough – unless more Canadians make a personal commitment to nature. Individual action is powerful, especially when your neighbours, friends and family see you stepping up. So, what can you do?

1. Most importantly, be careful who you vote for. Support parties and candidates who put environmental values such as wildlife conservation and climate change measures front and centre. Be sure your vote goes to politicians who value green space and will fight for adequate funding of government agencies like MNR and Parks Canada. Maybe run for office yourself!

2. Give money. In the U.S. last year, environmental giving represented only 3% of all charitable donations. I doubt the numbers are much different in Canada. If you want to give locally, consider the Kawartha Land Trust or the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre.

3. Take direct action. You can do this by planting pollinator gardens, stopping for turtles, removing invasive species or participating in a Citizen Science project in which you monitor species. The possibilities are endless.

4. Encourage your child’s teacher and principal to provide nature and outdoor education opportunities for students.

5. Be a role model. Show interest, enthusiasm and concern for nature. It’s contagious.

6. Going forward, we all need to consider whether it’s really possible to maintain healthy and diverse wildlife populations in a society based on continual economic growth – no matter how green future energy sources might be. We might be kidding ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 212017
 

This spring (2017) I had a unique opportunity to photograph a Snapping Turtle that was unaware of my presence and as a result I was able for the first time to capture one with its neck fully extended and travelling at “top speed” (for a turtle). For years in the past I have taken lots of pictures (especially laying eggs), but every time I approach them they will lay down and pull their neck into their shell. I often noticed them at a distance stopping to “periscope” in long grass before they travelled along. Close-up shots had always eluded me, until now.

Rick Stankiewicz, Keene

Snapping Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz

Snapping Turtle 2 – Rick Stankiewicz

Jul 092017
 

We had a pleasant surprise on Canada Day. A Snapping Turtle laid her eggs in our graveled turning circle in full view of the house windows. We watched her for about 50 minutes starting about 9:30 am though we don’t know how long she had been labouring. Interestingly, once she had covered the nest she proceeded to walk round the site, closely resembling a figure of eight movement, seemingly sniffing the air a few times before heading off back to the river. Had she briefly lost her sense of direction after her long labours and was searching for the scent of water? The nest is now well covered with chicken wire held firmly in place by a line of rocks. Later that day, around 6 pm, what looked like a doe and a juvenile male White-tailed Deer with sprouting antlers also paid us a visit.

Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Snapping Turtle – July 1, 2017 – Stephenie Armstrong

Snapper nest protected with chicken wire – Stephenie Armstrong – July 1, 2017

White-tailed Deer – Stephenie Armstrong – July 1, 2017

May 182017
 

My passion for nature began with turtles. Catching these wary reptiles was one of my favourite pastimes as a child. I was especially proud whenever I managed to bring home a snapping turtle, keep it for a day or two and show it off to my friends and family. I was therefore pleased to learn that the Ontario government has finally decided to ban the hunting of this increasingly rare species. This is a huge step forward for turtle conservation and a victory for science-based decision making. Like all of Ontario’s turtles, the snapping turtle cannot tolerate additional losses to its adult population. The hunt was not sustainable, especially on top of other pressures such as habitat loss and road mortalities.

Snapping Turtle digging nest on roadside (Danielle Tassie)

In late May and June, turtles are searching out nesting sites, such as the fine gravel of road shoulders. This is when people most often see turtles. However, turtle eggs stand a very poor chance of surviving the 90-day incubation period. Predators such as raccoons and skunks usually discover the nests within a matter of hours, dig up the eggs and enjoy a hearty meal. They leave behind the familiar sight of crinkled, white shells scattered around the nest area.

Roadkill, too, is a major cause of turtle mortality, especially at this time of year. Even worse, many of the turtles killed or injured are females on their way to lay eggs. Killing pregnant females not only removes reproductive adults from the population, but it also means all their potential future offspring are lost as well. Always drive carefully and keep an eye out for turtles on the road.

Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre

Sadly, numerous turtles continue to be hit by cars or injured in other ways. This is where the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC) comes in. Located at 1434 Chemong Road in Peterborough, the OTCC has been working since 2002 to protect and conserve Ontario’s native turtles and their habitat. It is the only wildlife rehabilitation centre dedicated solely to providing medical and rehabilitative care to Ontario’s turtles.

Home to the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, the OTCC operates a  hospital, which treats, rehabilitates and releases injured turtles. From an average of 50-80 turtles in the early years, the Centre now receives about 500 turtles each year as more people across Ontario learn about its work. The OTCC also carries out extensive research in the field and runs a comprehensive education and outreach program. The Executive and Medical Director is Dr. Sue Carstairs, who is an authorized wildlife custodian with over 20 years of experience in wildlife medicine.

Because so few turtles ever reach sexual maturity – females don’t even reproduce until the age of 18 – each adult turtle is part of an extremely important group. This is why it’s so important to rehabilitate as many injured turtles as possible – especially females – and return them to the wild. According to Dr. Carstairs, the most recent figures show that 1400 eggs are required to replace just one mother snapping turtle. However, as long as turtles can avoid threats such as road traffic, they can live and breed for a long time. It is believed that snapping turtles have a lifespan of over 100 years.

The OTCC is supported by a province-wide network of veterinarians and wildlife centres, including more than 30 different “first response centres”. Over 100 volunteers then drive the turtles from across the province to Peterborough. In this way, the “patients” are admitted to OTCC quickly for ongoing care. Once stabilized with fluids, painkillers, antibiotics, and wound management, each turtle is x-rayed to check for internal injuries and to see if the females are gravid (pregnant). If so, they are usually induced to lay their eggs.  With deceased turtles, the eggs are removed surgically. In both cases, the eggs are then moved to a nest container and incubated in the turtle nursery. Most hatchlings are quickly released in the marsh or pond closest to where their mother was found. However, babies from eggs that hatch late in the fall are kept over the winter and released in spring.

The public education facility at the OTCC on Chemong Road, in Peterborough – Drew Monkman

Because a turtle’s shell is made of bone, putting a fractured shell back together is orthopedic surgery. A number of different methods are used, depending on the type of fracture. Internal injuries, however, are the most life threatening. Like other injured animals, turtles go into shock, which means that timely care is of the essence. Other common medical interventions include repairing fractured jaws, removing fish hooks and treating everything from infections to pneumonia.

Drew Maxwell, a volunteer at the OTCC holds newly-hatched snapping turtles. The Centre treats injured turtles from around the province, many of which are injured after being hit by vehicles. – Drew Monkman

Education

Because education is the key to turtle conservation, the OTCC offers a number of carefully tailored presentations both off- and on-site. Audiences range from kindergarten students all the way to cottagers associations. Their Chemong Road location houses a 1000 square foot education centre. It is home to non-releasable education turtles, interactive displays and a great gift shop. Visitors can enjoy behind-the-scenes viewing of the hospital, the rehabilitation centre and adorable baby turtles! The education centre also includes a new outdoor area with ponds, trails and informative signs.

What you can do

1. If you come across an injured turtle, take note of the exact location where you found it. Place the animal in a plastic container with a secure lid and wash your hands. Call the OTCC at 705-741-5000. The Centre is staffed seven days a week from 8 am to 8 pm. NOTE: Never attempt to treat any sick or injured animal, no matter what it is. In the case of birds and mammals, contact a licensed Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre by going to owren-online.org

2. If you encounter an uninjured turtle in the middle of a road and traffic conditions are safe, gently move the animal in the direction it is travelling. Snappers can be coaxed across using a shovel, board or big stick. Never pick up a turtle by its tail.

3. If you know of a road that is particularly dangerous for turtles, contact your local councillor or other elected official to see if warning signs can be erected.

4. Do not dig up nests to protect the eggs. If you are concerned about predators, you can build a turtle nest cage. Instructions can be found at torontozoo.com. Search for a pdf called “Turtles on your Property”. Remember to keep an eye out for hatchlings from late August until snow. Hatchling painted turtles sometimes overwinter in the ground and appear in spring.

5. If you are a lakeside property owner, keep your shoreline as natural as possible. Leave an un-mown buffer of vegetation that extends at least 10 metres deep back from the water’s edge. Leave any fallen logs that lie on or close to shore.

6. You can help to conserve turtles (and other reptiles and amphibians) by reporting your sightings to monitoring programs such as the Ontario Reptile & Amphibian Atlas at Ontarionature.org

7. The OTCC exists primarily thanks to a team of dedicated volunteers, which assist with turtle care, outreach and fundraising. If you are interested in volunteering, visit the website or phone 705-741-5000.

Ontario’s turtles

Ontario is home to eight species of turtle, six of which can be found in the Kawarthas. The only species that are not found locally are the wood and spiny softshell turtles. No less than seven of our province’s turtles are now listed as Species at Risk.

1. Midland painted turtle: This is our most common and widespread species. It is named for the bright yellow, orange and/or red streaks on the head and neck.

2. Snapping turtle (at risk): Easily identifiable by its often massive size and the serrated edges at the rear margin of the shell, the snapping turtle is most often seen in May and June when it is nesting.

3. Blanding’s turtle (at risk): This species has a  dome-like shell and bright yellow throat. It is still quite common in the Kawarthas.

Blanding’s Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz

4. Musk turtle (at risk): This small, often algae-covered turtle, frequents shallow bays. It rarely leaves the water.

5. Map turtle (at risk): The shell of this large but wary species is covered by a network of map-like lines. The head and neck are streaked. They are often seen sunning themselves on the rocks of large lakes like Rice and Stony.

6. Spotted turtle (at risk): Small and secretive, spotted turtles have a smooth black shell with conspicuous bright yellow spots. There have only been a handful of confirmed sightings in the Kawarthas in recent years.

7. Wood turtle (at risk): This semi-terrestrial species spends most of its time on land in summer, inhabiting fields and forests near streams. Its shell looks like a piece of wood.

8. Spiny softshell turtle (at risk):  This is a highly aquatic species found mostly in the Great Lakes and in large rivers. It lacks the horny plates on its shell that most turtles have.

Ontario also has one non-native turtle, the red-eared slider, which is superficially similar to the painted turtle. It is sold in pet stores. Unfortunately, disenchanted owners continue to release sliders into the wild, where they represent a threat to native turtles.

Shell-abrate!

To celebrate the banning of the snapping turtle hunt, the OTTC will be hosting a fundraiser in Toronto on June 15. The event takes place at Torys LLP, located at 79 Wellington Street West. Tickets are $95 each, but come with a $45 tax receipt. There will be a short documentary on the Centre’s work, a silent auction, interactive displays and a chance to meet OTCC’s ambassador turtles!

To learn about all OTCC happenings such as regular open house events, visit ontarioturtle.ca.

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
Sep 132016
 

Thought I would send you these photos of a baby Snapping Turtle. I removed 10 from my river road on Friday, Sept 9th. My friend on Nogies Creek had 6 baby Blanding’s hatch on Labour Day after they had covered up the nest to protect it from predators.

Marie Windover, Cty Rd 507, Flynn’s Corners

Baby Snapping Turtle - Marie Windover

Baby Snapping Turtle – Marie Windover

Snapping Turtle size comparison with lighter - Marie Windover

Snapping Turtle size comparison with lighter – Marie Windover

Blanding's Turtle -  Rick Stankiewicz

Blanding’s Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz

Sep 062016
 

This past weekend, I observed the hatch of 8-10 Snapping Turtles on Rathbun Bay, Jack Lake. There is a very small sand beach between my neighbours cottages and the young turtles (1-1.5 inches in size) were all in the shallow water adjacent to the beach. No nesting activity had been observed back in early summer.

Steve Kerr, Jack Lake

SNTU hatchling in holding tank Stephenie Armstrong - 2014

Hatchling in holding tank – Stephenie Armstrong – 2014

Snapping Turtle  hatchling on its way - Stephenie Armstrong - 2014

Snapping Turtle hatchling on its way – Stephenie Armstrong – 2014

Baby Snapping Turtle - Stephenie Armstrong

Snapping Turtle hatchling – Stephenie Armstrong

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

 

May 312015
 

Last evening (May 30th) I saw two good sized Snapping Turtles up from the Otonabee River into our neighbourhood (Hazel Cres., OSM Twp.) First of the season and a bit early, as usually it’s the first week of June before we see them out and about.

Rick Stankiewicz, Keene

Snapping Turtle - Rick Stankiewicz (2007)

Snapping Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz (2007)

Snapping Turtle on roadside (Danielle Tassie - 2008)

Snapping Turtle on roadside (Danielle Tassie – 2008)

Nov 162014
 

My son spotted a Snapping Turtle swimming through our beach on day. I grabbed the camera, mask and snorkel and followed it for over 30 minutes. I was also able to make a video. For most of the time I was within arms reach of the turtle. It casually observed me as it went about its business. A very mild mannered creature and an amazing experience! The best shots are near the end of the video.

Paul Laufer, Peterborough

Snapping Turtle - Rick Stankiewicz

Snapping Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz

Nov 072014
 

Earlier this year, on June 17, we witnessed a Snapping Turtle laying her eggs in our gravel turning circle. We protected the area with wire mesh weighted down at the edges. We had first indications of hatching when a small hole appeared 16 weeks later. Between October 8th-14th, we recorded 20 hatchlings. Of those, 17 were all carried down to the river by an anxious guardian – me. We did come across three dead turtles at some distance from the nest, at least one of which may have hatched earlier, and these appeared to have been heading the wrong way in the opposite direction from the river, as did some of the remaining turtles when they emerged from their nest. I do so hope our intervention with the 17 gave them a chance and that some of them manage to survive, despite their natural instinct to crawl away westward not eastward towards the river.

Snapping Turtle nest - Stephenie Armstrong

Snapping Turtle preparing to lay eggs – Stephenie Armstrong

For the last three hatchlings, Peter and I put them in a “holding bed” (a large tray with some water at one end) as a nursery, as these last three still had not absorbed their sacks. We took the tray up onto the porch to keep the little ones safe from predators. Despite a stay of over 4 hours in the nursery, only one had absorbed the sack, but they were all so eager in trying to climb out of the tray and regularly falling backwards onto their backs, that we thought it wise to take them to the river. I put them onto a smooth short walk to the shallow muddy water, in hopes that the sacks wouldn’t rupture on this smooth surface.

Snapper hatchling - Stephenie Armstrong - Oct. 2014

Snapper hatchling – Stephenie Armstrong

In the past, the turtles we have rescued have all become very animated in my hand as I walked down towards the river, moving from hand to hand as they sensed the proximity of water. These little ones, for the most part, were rather passive and only a few reacted as I drew near the river.

I did phone the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre for some advice about the sacks and the “holding bed” and was assured I was doing the right thing. However, she too was puzzled by the direction the turtles were taking after hatching. As she said, nature isn’t perfect and there are so many factors affecting the development of the turtles in their eggs. Some may not have been fully fertilized, temperatures may have affected them, etc. She did say that the eggs tend to hatch over a few days, not taking as long as our lot. In the end there remained four eggs unhatched in the nest. Peter back-filled the hole for the winter, but I don’t suppose these few will hatch next year.

Hatchling on its way to the river - Stephenie Armstrong - 2014

Hatchling on its way to the river – Stephenie Armstrong

I’ve attached a picture of Mom laying the eggs, and two of the turtles on their arrival at the river and a couple of the nursery pictures. It was wonderful to see these little ones emerge from their underground nest and view the world for the first time.

Stephenie Armstrong, Sawmill Road, Warsaw

Snapper hatchlings in "holding tank" Note yolk sacs. Stephenie Armstrong - 2014

Snapper hatchlings in “holding tank” Note yolk sacs. Stephenie Armstrong – 2014