Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
Results of our 2022 Turtle Protection Project: a reason to "shell"ebrar!

We’ve got some “egg dating” news!

In 2022, we set out on a mission to protect Ontario’s at-risk turtles.

It was a huge success! In fact, in one park, our first painted turtle hatchling emerged from a nest in ten years!

And it wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing “turtle” donors and the Turtle Protection Project.

Mission #1: send Henry on a covert spy mission

Algonquin Provincial Park

Knowing how turtles use our parks helps us better protect them.

Meet Enrique. Our inner man.

A common snapping turtle equipped with a radio telemetry device to track its movement and location in Algonquin Provincial ParkHere’s Henry being fitted with his tracker.

Algonquin staff equipped Henry, a common snapping turtle, with a radio telemetry device with two years of battery life to track and locate his movements.

And it turns out that Henry spent the entire summer within a few hundred yards of the docks, and was often seen foraging for food!

It is common to see food thrown into the water at Algonquin campsites and beaches, which is why Henry was drawn there.

Reminder: Feeding wildlife is harmful. He:

  • It makes them dependent on humans for food.
  • attracts them to hang out near dangerous places (like busy roads or docks!)
  • can cause serious illness or death

Your donations allow us to learn a lot from Henry, even in a single summer.

Our Discovery staff is also partnering with Henry to show visitors:

  • how the transmitter works
  • Why is it so important not to feed wildlife?
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The Algonquin team will continue collecting data on Henry and will deploy two more radio tags in the future.

Mission #2: Help baby turtles cross the street to live beyond adolescence.

Pinery Provincial Park

Did you know that snapping turtle mothers can travel up to 8 km one way? To find the perfect place to lay your eggs?

And then the tiny hatchlings need to find their way to the water.

A busy park like Pinery has 100 kilometers of paths and other man-made obstacles for the turtles to cross.

And too many turtles don’t make it to the other side safely.

We wanted to help more Pinery turtles live long enough to grow.

Donations to our Turtle Protection Project helped us:

  • install a digital speed feedback radar at a highway fatality hotspot
  • add a sign indicating the likelihood of animals on the trail, indicating “extreme” during turtle nesting and hatching season
  • presenting “Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?”, a naturalist quiz show to educate park visitors on how they can help keep turtles safe.

Thanks to our park staff, community scientists and donors, There were no babies hit on the road last year.!

What an extraordinary result, given that most of the nests hatched during the peak period of visits to the park.

Mission #3: prevent turtle eggs from becoming a tasty snack

Awenda Provincial Park

Did you know that raccoons and foxes dig up turtle nests and eat the eggs?

And in crowded campgrounds, you’ll know how common those predators are!

When trash is left behind, raccoon and fox populations increase significantly.

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This increase can cause egg predation rates of more than 99% in heavily affected areas. Egg predation occurs when one animal (a predator) hunts and eats the eggs of another species (prey).

To keep nests safe from predators, we:

  • Nest protectors installed on detected nests.
  • conducted nesting studies to find more nests to protect

Thanks to the surveys, the park protected 46 nests (a record number!).

Balsam Lake Provincial Park

Our park staff worked day and night in all weather conditions to protect the Balsam Lake turtle nests.

Thanks to support from the Turtle Protection Project, Balsam Lake had its first painted turtle hatchling in ten years!

Painted turtle hatchling

It emerged in the fall of 2022 from an artificial nesting area built, monitored and protected by volunteers and staff.

Mission #4: Keep the Turtles Out of Trouble

Pinery Provincial Park

No one tries to catch a turtle, but fishing can be difficult for our shelled companions.

Sometimes turtles swallow fishing hooks and lures because they think it would be a tasty snack.

When turtles swallow hooks, it is usually fatal.

Especially if fishermen cut the line, this can prevent the turtle from receiving care for life-threatening injuries.

Image 1: Sign conveying 1) turtles are an at-risk species and the survival of each individual is important, 2) clear instructions on how to avoid hooking turtles, and 3) how to respond in the event of an accidental hook Image 2: Contents turtle trauma kit

We work hard to keep turtles free in Pinery by:

  • Installing signs at fishing docks to educate fishermen.
  • Launch creative fisheries management programs, including our Hook Exchange and Worms for Popsicles programs.
  • Create “turtle trauma kits” to allow for a faster response to injured turtles in the park.

With sustained support from the Turtle Protection Project, we can all work together to keep turtles free!

Not in the park? You can still help!

Wherever you are in the world, you can help us protect turtles.

A three-panel image of Ontario Parks turtle products.  The first panel shows a stuffed turtle, the second a woman wearing a teal shirt with an illustration of a turtle, and the third shows hands opening a blue water bottle speckled with a turtle.

Check out the Turtle Protection Collection in our online store. Proceeds from these sales directly support these projects.

Donate directly to the Turtle Protection Project. Your donation will be used to fund even more turtle research and protection projects.

Thanks to you and your continued support, there is much to celebrate this year. Thank you!