Spring a dangerous season for turtles

By Colleen Parette

Spring is a dangerous time of year for turtles, as the slow-moving travellers are exposed to hazards as they seek out nesting areas.

While the reptiles relatively safe habitat in conservation areas, the Raisin Region Conservation Authority notes that in the upcoming weeks you may see snapping turtles in high-risk areas such as roadsides or along gravel driveways and paths. Motorists are advised to drive with caution and watch for wildlife-crossing signs along roadways.

Ontario turtles face numerous threats, including habitat loss, illegal collection for the food or pet trade, boating mortality, and fishing bycatch, yet the most significant by far is road mortality, the RRCA points out.

The weeks ahead are some of the most dangerous in a turtle’s life since this is when females are laying their eggs.

Females will often travel long distances to find appropriate sites to lay their eggs, yet they still don’t always choose the best sites and often end up laying them on the soft roadside shoulders. Once the eggs are laid, the female turtle will cover the nest, and the hatchlings will be on their own from that point forward.

Due to predation, less than per cent of the eggs laid will make it into the population.

While populations can sustain this loss of eggs and hatchlings when no other threats are placed on them, the additional threats they face have caused all eight of Ontario’s turtle species to be listed as species at risk.

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