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Turtles

from left, Northern Map Turtle, and two Midland Painted Turtles.

This is the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) community turtles page.

For the following regular content, please scroll to the bottom of the page:

Turtle release event returns in 2022
Seventh annual turtle release event, on Thursday, September 1, 2022, educates about turtles and habitat they need to survive

Huron Stewardship Council (HSC), in partnership with Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA), is bringing back the turtle release event to return turtle hatchlings to the wild. The public is invited to the Seventh Annual Turtle Hatchling Release on Thursday, September 1, 2022 from 1 to 5 p.m. It is at Morrison Dam Conservation Area, 71108 Morrison Line, east of Exeter, Ontario. The event is free and takes place rain or shine. Organizers say donations to support Ontario turtle conservation are encouraged.

To register for the event and to select a time please visit the Eventbrite link here:

People attending will not be able to hold the turtles. This is to protect the animals and reduce their stress. Those attending will be able to see the turtles as they are released. Participants will also be able to visit a number of educational stations with fun learning activities.

Local conservation groups hosted the turtle release as an in-person event between 2016 and 2019. Thousands of people attended in its first four years. The popular education event reached record attendance of 1,500 people in 2019. Organizers transformed the event in 2020 and 2021 to a virtual Local Turtle Week (#LocalTurtleWeek) with photos, videos, social media posts, and at-home activities. The event returns to an in-person event in 2022.

Marcus Maddalena is Biologist and Stewardship Coordinator with the County of Huron. He said the Turtle Release Event is a great way to educate about Ontario’s freshwater turtles and the ways we can protect these important species. People can protect turtles, he said, by helping them across the road the way they are headed, driving more slowly, protecting nests from predators, enhancing turtle habitat through local tree planting and wetland restoration programs, and supporting community turtle monitoring programs.

Turtles help to control aquatic vegetation and to clean creeks and wetlands by eating algae and dead and decaying fish and other organisms. “We need to preserve and enhance our wetlands and plant native trees and shrubs and protect and grow the natural areas that sustain turtle species,” said Hope Brock, Healthy Watersheds Technician with Ausable Bayfield Conservation. 

Ontario’s native freshwater turtles face many threats including habitat loss and road mortality (death by cars and other vehicles). Hundreds of turtles in Ontario are hit by cars each year in the spring, summer, and autumn. These could be gravid (pregnant) females looking for a place to lay eggs, or males and females looking for new ponds and mates. People can help turtles by creating nesting habitat on their properties, stopping to help turtles cross the road in the direction they are heading (when it is safe to do so), and working with their local municipalities and communities to erect turtle crossing signs and build safe passages. People can also arrange for transport of injured turtles to the turtle hospital. People can also act to protect, create, and enhance the natural areas that provide the habitat for turtle hatchlings to eat, drink, reproduce, and grow and become the adult turtles of tomorrow. 

To learn more visit the Huron Stewardship Council website and the Ausable Bayfield Conservation turtles page.

If you have questions about the event, you are invited to contact Marcus Maddalena, County of Huron Biologist and Stewardship Coordinator, at mmaddalena@huroncounty.ca

Our watershed community told us to ... protect turtles!

People in your watershed community met for a year to develop the Conservation Strategy.

They said Ausable Bayfield Conservation and our community partners should protect water, soil, and habitat for living things ... such as turtles.

Turtle Sighting Reporting Form

Ausable Bayfield Conservation would like to hear about your turtle sightings. 

Here is the link to the turtle reporting form:

Thanks for having reported turtle nests

A big thank you to all the people who reported turtle nests to us this year, especially to volunteers Chris and Gail Hills, who took time to construct several nest protection cages. Thank you all for protecting Ontario's freshwater turtles!

The Importance of Protecting Turtles

Ontario’s freshwater turtles play an important role in local ecosystems.

These important reptiles face numerous threats in Canada and around the world, according to Ausable Bayfield Conservation. “Local turtle populations can be affected by the loss of even one adult turtle,” said Hope Brock, Healthy Watersheds Technician with Ausable Bayfield Conservation.

The Port Franks Community Turtle Monitoring Program has been taking place for more than half a decade.

“Local people help to let us know about the turtles they see and we are very thankful for that,” Hope said. “When we know how many turtles there are and what habitat they are using, it helps in our work to protect them and preserve their vital role in local watercourses.”

The local ecological system of water and land depends on having diverse animals that each play a role to keep that system healthy. The turtle is a vital part of that ecosystem. Turtles help to control aquatic vegetation. Turtles serve as scavengers. This means they help clean our creeks and wetlands by eating dead and decaying fish and other organisms.

Ontario turtle numbers are going down. Some of Ontario’s turtles are species at risk under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 and the federal Species at Risk Act.

The likelihood of offspring survival in turtles is very low, which means that a female turtle will have to lay many eggs over the course of her life for just one of her offspring to survive. Turtle numbers are in decline because of factors such as death on roadways, decline in habitat, slow rates of reproduction, and eating of eggs (predation) by predators such as raccoons or skunks.

The important role that turtles play, and the worrisome decline in turtle numbers, make the local Port Franks Area Community Turtle Monitoring Program very important, according to Hope.

Turtle monitoring workshops have been held with the support of Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation (ABCF) and Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) and other generous partners.

Turtle species

Ontario has eight native turtle species. All eight of these species can be found in Ausable Bayfield Conservation watersheds. These species are as follows:

  • Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
  • Eastern Musk Turtle (Stinkpot) (Sternotherus odoratus)
  • Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata)
  • Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica)
  • Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
  • Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera)
  • Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)
  • Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

For more information on these turtle species, please visit the Ontario Nature Reptiles and Amphibians web page:

What to do if you find a turtle on the road

Female turtles need to leave the water to lay their eggs on dry ground. They typically do this from late May to early July. They often need to cross roads to get to suitable nesting areas. Sometimes they may even nest on the sides of roads.

If you find a turtle on the road, please help it across safely (only if it is safe for you to do so). Always move the turtle in the direction that it is heading.

Most turtles can be picked up carefully with two hands. When handling Snapping Turtles keep a safe distance from their head as they will snap at you if they feel threatened. You can grab the back of the shell and gently drag it across the road.  Or, you may want to use a shovel, blanket, or car mat to move the turtle. Never pick up a turtle by the tail as this could damage its spine.

What to do if you find an injured turtle

  • Carefully place the injured turtle in a box or well-ventilated plastic container with a secure lid (turtles can climb!)

Most turtles can be picked up carefully with two hands. 

When handling Snapping Turtles keep a safe distance from their head as they will snap at you if they feel threatened. You may want to use a shovel or board to lift the turtle.

Note the location (road and major intersections) where the turtle was found to ensure it can be released according to provincial regulations.

Do not transport turtles in water. Do not offer the turtle anything to eat.

Take the turtle to:

  • Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, P.O. Box 601, Mt Brydges, ON, NOL 1WO • 519-264-2440
  • Turtle Haven, 114 Mansion Street Kitchener, ON, N2H 2J9 • 519-745-4334
  • Georgian Bay Turtle Hospital-Oro-Medonte, ON, L3V 6H1
  • Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, 1434 Chemong Road 4, Peterborough, ON, K9J 6X2 • 705-741-5000
  • Toronto Wildlife Centre, 60 Carl Hall Road, Toronto, ON, M3K 2C1 • 416-631-0662
  • Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue, Oil Springs, 519-466-6636. 

Volunteer couriers may be able to drive the turtle to a rehabilitation centre if you cannot. Please call first. 

Even if the turtle cannot be saved, wildlife rehabilitation staff may be able to save the eggs inside her!

The local ecological system depends on having diverse animals that each play a role to keep that system healthy. The turtle is a vital part of that eco-system. Turtles help to control aquatic vegetation. Turtles serve as scavengers. This means they help clean our creeks and wetlands by eating dead and decaying fish and other organisms.

It takes a long time for most turtles to reach maturity. Mature turtles may live a long time but turtles reproduce at a low rate. Any time a mother turtle dies, or any adult turtle dies, there is an impact on the future of the species. A Snapping Turtle would have to lay about 1,400 eggs in her lifetime, on average, in order for just one of her offspring to survive to adulthood. Saving even one adult by safely moving it across the road can help to conserve that species.