Air Rescued Snapping Turtle Has Returned Home

Grumpy Snapping Turtle from Submitted by Turtle Tallier Vanessa  Wightman

Grumpy Snapping Turtle Submitted by Turtle Tallier Vanessa Wightman

Porter is a famous snapping turtle from Port Franks just North East of Sarnia area.

This newsworthy reptile suffered multiple jaw fractures from being hit by a car in May of 2013.  Bill Mallett discovered the badly injured turtle and knew he had to help this animal. Mallett took the turtle an hour’s drive for help to Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue in Oil Springs. The turtle was then airlifted, by Pilots N Paws Canada volunteer pilot and Windsor resident Rick Woodall, to Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre (KTTC) in Peterborough. Porter underwent surgery there for his injuries and has been rehabilitating at KTTC for the past year. You can read more about this incident HERE.

In May of 2014 Porter the snapping turtle was deemed fit enough to return to the wild! KTTC volunteer Kate Siena was kind enough to make the 4.5h drive to deliver Porter from Peterborough back to his native habitat in Port Franks. Mallet, who had found the turtle and started the chain of events that saved the animal’s life, was able to assist at Porter’s release back into the wild.

“There’s a definite connection” between Mallett and the turtle, Siena said. She took Porter out of his large container in the car and gently set him in the water to return him to his local habitat. It didn’t take long for Porter to swim into the water and make it home again.

Some people might wonder why so much effort was put into saving a single snapping turtle. The fact is, that seven out of the eight species of turtles we have in Ontario are in decline, and any increase in the number of adult deaths greatly affects the species’ ability to populate an area.

The life history of the snapping turtle is like that of most of Ontario’s turtle species, and is characterized by a late age of maturity (15-20 years), a slow reproduction rate (1 nest per year), and living a very long life (+70 years). As a result, the loss of even a few adult turtles from a population every year is enough to cause that population to decline, and this makes snapping turtle populations very vulnerable to threats such as predation, road mortality, hunting and poaching. This means if we’re lucky only 1 out of 100 eggs laid will survive to become an adult turtle.

Turtles have a soft spot in many people’s hearts. They are one of those unforgettable creatures recognized by even by the most novice of nature observers. From spotting them on a log to approaching them hidden in their shells, turtles are a familiar and interesting looking creature. Tales of turtles are common in thousands of mythologies and symbolic images found all over the world.  Closer to home, individual encounters of turtles are memorial; from that one unforgettable childhood pet, to an adventurous tug of war between a snapper and a fishing line, to the “it was huge!” when seeing a snapper swimming at the cottage.

Sadly, if turtles disappear so will these amazing turtle tales and with them that little bit of wonder we could have passed on to the next generation.

The snapping turtle is currently listed as Special Concern under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 and Special Concern under the federal Species at Risk Act. The species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. These acts offer legal protection to individuals and their habitat.

So How Can You Help?

Crossing roads is something most turtles in southwestern Ontario must do. Unfortunately for these slow moving creatures, it often results in injury or death. During the spring season it is common to see turtles crossing roads as they come out of hibernation and make their way to their summer habitats, and more frequent in June when females leave their wetland habitats in search of nesting locations.

If you see a turtle crossing the road, and it’s safe to stop, please help these little guys out! The important thing to remember when assisting turtles across roads is to move them in the direction they are headed. An instructional video about safely helping a turtle across the road by the Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme can be found HERE

A portion of this article was adapted from an original acritical posted on the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority website which can be found HERE