New turtle sign in Ailsa Craig
Ailsa Craig, partners install turtle sign at park
Ailsa Craig residents, Municipality of North Middlesex, Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation, and Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority work together to add turtle signs to community park
The village of Ailsa Craig celebrated World Turtle Day in May by installing a new sign at Ailsa Craig Community Park to highlight turtles of the Ausable River. The sign reminds visitors of the many threats turtles face and how local people can get involved to help recover turtle populations in Ontario.
“Education is an important part of the Ailsa Craig Community Park,” said Ailsa Craig business owner and resident Charlene McNair-Kestle, Co-Chair of the Ailsa Craig Park Project Committee that spearheaded the fundraiser for the upgrades and renovations to Ailsa Craig Community Park.
Residents of Ailsa Craig, the Municipality of North Middlesex, Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation, and Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority partnered to add the sign to the park.
The Ailsa Craig Park Project Committee wanted to add an educational component to the park about the trees and the animals that are native to the area, according to McNair-Kestle. “We have a play school located in the recreation centre that uses our facilities regularly as well as local families and travelers,” she said.
The Ausable River is one of the most biologically diverse watersheds of its size in Canada, according to John Jimmo, Aquatic Biologist with Ausable Bayfield Conservation. The river provides habitat to several turtle species at risk, he said. There are eight native turtle species in Ontario. Seven of those species are at risk. Turtles are slow to mature. They have a low reproductive rate. “Ontario’s turtles face many threats,” said Jimmo. Those threats include loss of habitat; road mortality (when turtles cross the road and are hit by a vehicle); nest predation (when other species eat turtle eggs); and illegal collection for the pet trade.
Community members may assist in the recovery of turtle populations by helping turtles cross the road (when it’s safe to do so). It is important to move turtles in the direction they are heading. People can also help protect local turtle species by taking extra care when driving. Turtles often cross roads to look for suitable nesting habitat. Most species nest from late May to early July. It is this time of year when people need to be most cautious about turtles on the road.
You may report turtle sightings to Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA). You should report any illegal activity causing harm to wildlife to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry at 1-877-MNR-TIPS.
When you find an injured turtle
If you find an injured turtle, carefully place it in a well-ventilated box or plastic container with a secure lid. Note where you found the turtle so it can be returned to the same spot. You may then transport the turtle to a wildlife rehabilitation centre. Ausable Bayfield Conservation can provide you with the contact information for the nearest centre. You may also contact Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (519-264-2440) or Heaven’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (519-466-6636) directly. Volunteer couriers may be available to drive the turtle to the centre. Note that even if the turtle cannot be saved, wildlife rehabilitation staff may be able to save the eggs inside the turtle.
You are asked to never pick up a turtle by their tail. This can damage their spine.
One can pick up small turtles, like Painted Turtles, on the sides of their shells to move them across the road.
Snapping Turtles have a very long neck and can reach back and snap at you so you need to move them more carefully. Only handle a Snapping Turtle by the back of their shell. Once you have a firm grip on the back of the shell, you can lift or gently drag the turtle across the road. Blankets, towels, shovels and car mats can also be used to move Snapping Turtles across the road.
PHOTO: People in Ailsa Craig and area now have a new way to find out about turtles of the Ausable River. The Ailsa Craig Community Park has a new turtle sign installed thanks to the partnership of Ailsa Craig residents, the Municipality of North Middlesex, Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation, and Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority. Shown in photo, from left to right, are: John Jimmo, Aquatic Biologist, Ausable Bayfield Conservation; Charlene McNair-Kestle, Co-Chair of the Ailsa Craig Park Project Committee; Richard Dennett, of Ailsa Craig and District Lions Club; and Scott Nickles, Recreation and Facilities Manager, Municipality of North Middlesex.
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