Protecting snapping turtles and other wetland species
Wetlands are beautiful habitats where many unique species of animals can be found. We are all
able to help protect and conserve these critically important ecosystems.
In Ontario, most of our important wetlands have been mapped and are protected through various regulations. Wetlands that support critical habitat and species are called Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSW) and are protected from development and disturbance. However, simply drawing a line around a wetland and saying it is “protected” is not enough to ensure the protection and survival of the species it contains. Many wetland species, such as turtles, snakes, and frogs, are mobile and capable of traveling great distances to find food and suitable habitat for breeding. When wildlife moves between habitats, they become extremely vulnerable to threats that could impact their ability to survive (and thrive).
Everyone can play a part in helping to protect and conserve our treasured wetland species. One
simple thing we can all do to help is to be mindful of the presence of wildlife on our roadways.
Springtime, in particular, is a vulnerable time for many wetland species as they are on the move to find suitable nesting areas. Snapping turtles are of special concern in Ontario because they often lay their eggs in gravel along roadways in late May and early June and are at high risk of road mortality.
You can help snapping turtles and other turtles by safely removing them off the road if you see
them. Many tips and tricks can be used to ensure you do this without harming yourself or the
turtle, but here are a few of the basics:
- Never lift a turtle up from the tail, as the tail is attached to the turtle’s spine. To a human,
this would be like being lifted up by your neck.
- Snapping turtles have long necks and can extend their mouth past their front legs. You
can safely pick up a snapping turtle by holding the very back of its shell behind its back
- Large snapping turtles can be effectively maneuvered backwards across road surfaces by
pulling on the back part of their shell. Although slightly bothersome to them, it can save
their life without hurting them.
- Mats from your car can also be used to wedge under large turtles and move them to
- Leave a nesting turtle alone while she is egg-laying in the sand, gravel, or even loose soil
(she will appear very docile, almost as if she is asleep, while she is laying eggs). Brightly
coloured objects such as pylons, painted rocks (which can be a great craft for young kids)
or safety vests can be placed beside a nesting turtle on the edge of the road to increase her
visibility for other drivers. This will not bother her, as she will be focused on the job at-
The Toronto Zoo’s Adopt a Pond YouTube video also offers a variety of useful and clever
techniques for safely removing turtles from roads. Just remember, if you see a turtle on the road, remove it in the direction it was traveling and be mindful of traffic. It is never worth putting your personal safety at risk.
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