Today’s post comes from Rose Brandt, a Discovery student at Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park.
If you’ve been to Bagwa Day Use Beach in Samuel de Champlain, you may have wondered what that seemingly random pile of sand next to the beach is all about.
That would be our artificial turtle nesting site!
Turtles have been nesting unassisted for millions of years, but due to human impact, they are finding it harder to persist on their own.
This turtle nesting site is an attempt to mediate some of this impact and provide a safe place to nest.
Find the right place
Unlike many birds that build nests in trees, turtles dig holes in the ground.
Before laying their eggs, they have a few requirements: a sand or gravel substrate that retains heat well, full sun exposure, a nearby body of water, and good drainage.
These are important for both the burrowing process and the survival of the newborn turtles.
The heat of the sun allows the young to grow in the egg. In fact, temperature determines the sex of the turtle! Long, hot summers create more females and cool summers create more males.
Proximity to a body of water helps provide immediate habitat for new hatchlings.
These are all things we had to consider when building a turtle nesting site.
Even if all of these requirements are met, the nests are still vulnerable to predators such as raccoons.
Because of this, staff closely monitor our turtle nesting site during nesting season.
When we see a turtle laying eggs or evidence that one has establishedWe cover it with a nest protector like the one shown below to prevent predators from getting hold of the eggs.
Nest Protector in Awenda Provincial Park
Turtles also face significant threats on roads. Turtle nesting sites can be useful ways to prevent turtles from having to cross a road to find a suitable place to nest.
With a decline in suitable nesting habitats other than a roadside or public beach, turtle nesting sites provide safe, “turtle-only” nesting refuges.
The only challenge with turtle nesting sites is that turtles have high site loyaltymeaning they return to the same places over and over again to lay.
This means it could be a couple of seasons before the sites fill up with our hulled friends. However, here at Samuel de Champlain we have already seen signs of wear after just three years.
Breaking turtle tracks!
We have found turtle tracks and test pits, which turtles create when they test places to lay their nests. This lets us know that the turtles are, in fact, using this site and it is already having a positive impact.
Once the turtles get used to the site, they will return again and again!
Have you seen a turtle at or near this nesting site? Please do not disturb him and notify park staff!
Do you want to help protect turtles like those found at Samuel de Champlain? Donate to the Turtle Protection Project.