Nature Conservancy of Canada asks motorists to help turtles cross the street
Article published on 25 May 2021
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The Nature Conservancy of Canada is asking motorists to be vigilant and help turtles cross the streets.

As we leave our houses to venture out onto the roads, wildlife sightings, including collisions with vehicles, are often likely to involve turtles. This is why the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is asking motorists to give them a bit of a break by staying on the lookout, as these endangered species sometimes bask on the roadways or just try to cross the road.
- Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Spring is a time when turtles are active. They leave their habitats in search of mates and nesting sites. The many endangered turtle species that inhabit Canada, like other cold-blooded reptiles, like to bask on gravel, sandy shoulders or warm asphalt on cool spring days. Although their shell is an effective protection against predators, it is no match for a car. Every turtle that dies in a road collision has a huge chain reaction for its entire species.

Turtles can indeed take up to 25 years to reproduce. The survival rate of their eggs is very low (2% of the eggs will give off young which will reach adulthood). Thus, losing a single adult is 20 years behind in the development of a population. Studies have shown that a mere 5% increase in annual mortality is enough to cause an entire population to decline. To maintain their numbers in a given population, turtles rely on the survival of adults, especially females.

Turtles are not only adorable, they are also an important part of the wetland ecosystem. They are the janitors of wetlands because they keep them clean and healthy by feeding on their plants, insects and the dead animals that are there.
- Francisco Retamal Diaz, Project Coordinator at the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

In some parts of Canada, turtle mortality is a major issue. In Quebec, six species have been designated threatened or vulnerable under the Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species (LEMV) of the government of Quebec, such as: the wood turtle, the map turtle, the spiny softshell turtle, the Blanding’s turtle , the Eastern Musk Turtle and the Spotted Turtle. The Nature Conservancy of Canada encourages people to report turtle sightings and share their photos on carapace.ca, so they know where to take conservation efforts. To date, the site has received nearly 6,000 documented observations. More than twenty roads and highways in Quebec have been confirmed as sites of frequent collisions, including a section in the Outaouais where new fences will be installed this summer to guide the turtles to a culvert allowing them to cross the road. safely. In total, more than 3,600 people submitted reports to the carapace.ca website.

Tips for moving turtles

- To help a turtle cross the road, first make sure you can pull over onto the shoulder safely. Make your safety a priority.

- Move the turtle in the direction it was going, otherwise it will probably try to cross the road again.

- For a turtle that hides its head in its shell (e.g. the Blanding’s turtle and the painted turtle in the center), it suffices to lift it gently with both hands (like holding a hamburger!) While supporting its breastplate and backrest , then carry it across the road. Keeping it close to the ground will keep you out of trouble if you drop it.

- The Snapping Turtle, a large gray turtle with a heavy, spiny tail, has a massive and very strong shell. It cannot retract its head into its shell and its curved beak is very sharp. To move it without hurting it, lift it using the “handles” located on either side of its tail, at the back of its shell, and make it cross the road by pressing it on its front legs. like a wheelbarrow. If you have a car mat or shovel, gently slide the turtle onto it and drag the mat or shovel on the road.

- After moving the turtle, step back and leave it alone, to avoid stressing it. Pushing or pushing turtles with your feet or a stick is not recommended. Their breastplates are thinner than their backs, and the rough surface of the road could inflict serious injuries on them.

- Other threats to turtles are habitat loss, invasive species and illegal capture for the pet trade.

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