Building Beaches for Tiny Turtles

by SHANNON RITCHIE, Lakeside Project Lead ||

A young volunteer pours sand onto the Turtle Island nesting beach.

Adopt-A-Pond’s Healthy Water-Healthy Wildlife programme has developed an action plan to carry out stewardship initiatives that help local wildlife and their habitats. We provide resources and deliver workshops to assist pre-identified lake communities with species monitoring, habitat creation and wetland assessment. Healthy Water-Healthy Wildlife has rolled out a stewardship campaign at Bobs and Crow Lake to have community leaders come together and build a nesting beach for Ontario turtles.

Bobs and Crow Lake is located within the Rideau River watershed and is part of both the Tay River system and the Rideau Canal waterway.  Established settlements have historically been on Bobs Lake since 1832. However, damming at Bolingbroke in 1870 raised the water levels 15 to 18 feet, linking four lakes into one, and creating the 800km shoreline of the Bobs and Crow Lake we know today. This lake is home to a rich biodiversity of life including Bald Eagles, Black Bears, and of course turtles!  The Northern Map, Stinkpot, Blanding’s, Painted and Snapping turtles can all call Bobs and Crow Lake their home.

A mix of permanent and non-permanent residents make up a driven community of lake stewardship activists supportive of turtle conservation projects.  In cooperation with Bobs and Crow Lake Alliance’s Wildlife sub-committee and local residents, Adopt-A-Pond helped to construct a nesting beach on July 20th, 2012. The work was made possible by one of the generous funders who supports the Adopt-A-Pond Programme – the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Residents of the lake didn’t mind getting down and dirty as twenty five volunteers haled wheel barrows full of sand and gravel to construct a nesting haven for their favorite turtle neighbours. Turtles that will use this breach included the local species of Painted, Map (Special Concern), Snapping (Special Concern) and Blanding’s turtles (Threatened). The beach is approximately 3m by 3m in size and took a little over four hours to complete.

The beach is located on the northeast section of the lake, on a private island suitably named Turtle Island! This island beach will ensure better protection from turtle egg predators and provide educational and monitoring opportunities for the turtle enthusiastic community members of the lake. Creating nesting beaches is an important component of improving habitat availability for declining turtle species. Seven of eight Ontario turtles are now considered species at risk, so ensuring that turtles can easily navigate to reproductive sites and increasing nest site success are important ways to ensure the health of at-risk populations.

Volunteers stand on the completed Turtle Island nesting beach.