Have you Seen Turtles Nesting on the Roadside? Some of Our Top Turtle Talliers Share Their Turtle Nesting Stories

Many of our native turtle species have to travel out of their wetland homes to find dry nesting sites on higher ground. Turtles are pretty habitual creatures and will often travel the same direction to the same nesting area year after year. Even if the nesting area is altered or destroyed, turtles can be found using the same route and ending up in the midst of newly developed areas. There are even some Blanding’s turtles that are known to travel up to 7km a year, for over 15 years, to return to their perfect nesting site.

Pat Grace, near Perth Ontario, reported the first nesting turtle sightings on May 26th. Map turtles have been nesting on his property for years! It’s always nice to hear the news that the turtles have returned again in full force.

May 28th to May 30th was a busy nesting period in Ontario with over 35 nesting turtles reported to Ontario Turtle Tally in the three day stretch.

Kaitlyn Fleming, near Kitchener reported a lovely nesting snapper making a new hole in the gravel at a local golf course

Lindy Howlings, at Thousand Islands, saw two painted turtles nesting in the same spot at the same time.

Judith Haines reported a snapper nesting in a driveway bordering the Tay River.

Don Scallen provided a detailed report of his latest nesting encounter, “{the} turtle had just finished excavating a nest on the shoulder of the road. I carried her across the road in the direction she was travelling. Snapping turtle females seem to respond to rain at this time of year, for nesting. Soil is likely easier to move and rain may wash away the scent of the females and their eggs. The next good rain should be very productive of nesting snapping turtles.”

In Southern Ontario you can’t move more than 1km in any direction without coming to a road. Increasing development will always lead to more roads and more habitat changes. It’s no wonder that so many travelling creatures find their way onto roads. Being such a slow moving creature, it’s definitely risky to be an egg laying turtle on the move in Southern Ontario. Along with more roads come the gravel road shoulders, which Snapping turtles find as ideal nesting areas. The turtles that nest along roads are at great risk for not only the mother being hit, but also the hatchlings as they try to get back to their wetland habitat once they emerge from the nest later in the summer.

Want to help? You can help turtles get across roads safely! It’s easy and pretty exciting —Watch this video about how to safely move turtles crossing roads…even those tricky snapping turtles!

If you see a nesting turtle, remember to report your sighting to Ontario Turtle Tally. This citizen science programme collects turtle sightings from volunteers across the province. All the data we collect helps us and our conservation partners to identify where turtles live, and helps guide work to protect turtle habitat! Become a Turtle Tallier today!


For more information about Toronto Zoo conservation programs visit:  http://www.torontozoo.com/conservation/

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