Ontario is home to eight species of turtles. Ontario’s turtles have been getting a lot of attention in recent times, especially from wildlife conservation experts. This attention has come due to the dwindling numbers in the eight species. If more people switch to humane methods of wildlife control though, Ajax’s turtles stand a better chance of surviving.
The Turtles of Canada
All eight species of Ontario’s turtles are now endangered. This startling revelation came from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada(COSEWIC) in 2018. Previously, seven species are endangered, the exception being the midland painted turtle. But things took a drastic turn for the worst in 2018 when the midland turtles joined the ranks of endangered species.
Challenges Faced by Canada’s Turtles
Turtles are prey to raccoons, hawks and a few other wildlife species. Raccoons are particularly challenging to turtles as they are excellent at fishing (they swipe their paws into the water to snag tasty seafood). But not only do turtle shave to watch out for raccoons while they glide in the water, they also have to look out for them on land as well.
As if that weren’t enough, they also face threats coming from human activities. Turtles are slow movers and they often get hurt as they traverse busy streets. This usually happens as turtles emerge from the water and take on a journey across busy streets to get to a good egg-laying spot. The same threat remains when baby turtles, recently hatched, travel across roads to get to the water. Ontario’s roadways have been especially deadly for the region’s snakes and turtles who unfortunately, make up 70% of the traffic based wildlife casualties. Pollution also puts their lives at risk.
Turtles are important members of the wildlife community. They help keep water sources (rivers and oceans) clean by eating the dead and decaying organic matter that lies around. Additionally, they are calming to observe as the trudge casually on land. They preserve the natural balance by consuming plant and animal species and thereby preventing excess. They are also crucial to the survival of their predators such as raccoons and hawks. Raccoons have proven to be very challenging for turtle survival as they feed on the eggs that turtles deposit when they come to land.
Help for Ottawa’s Turtles
This is why Ottawa’s turtle lovers have sprung into action. One group of turtle rescuers, the Canadian Wildlife Federation spends each June-July (turtle laying season) picking up eggs that turtles lay in less than desirable locations such as by the side of roads and taking them to specialized incubators in which they can hatch safely from dangers, such as predators and vehicles. As they worked to save the unhatched turtles they experienced firsthand, the impact of the shrewd and swift hunter, the raccoon as some turtle eggs were snatched and eaten by raccoons before the team got a chance to retrieve them.
In another turtle saving mission, a community put in the infrastructure to help the animals avoid danger. The community, Long Point, which is located in rural Ontario constructed roadway fencing to keep turtles off the dangerous Long Point causeway. They also constructed culverts that would allow the turtles to travel beneath the roadway to get from the forested areas to the water and back.
The short answer is that Canada’s turtles have been receiving a lot of attention because they need it. Years of negative attention have seriously diminished their numbers and many species are teetering on the brink of extinction. Species like Canada’s 8 threatened turtles will benefit immensely if we opt for humane wildlife control strategies in Ajax and its surrounding communities.