Nature Conservancy of Canada issues plea to drivers after Ontario turtle hospital declares state of emergency

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With seven of Ontario’s eight native turtle species at risk, Southwestern Ontarians are being asked to slow down to help them survive road crossings.

The plea for public help by the Nature Conservancy of Canada comes a month after one of the province’s largest turtle hospitals declared a state of emergency for the creatures, having taken in 800 turtles already this year.

Many of the injured turtles were struck by vehicles, said Kristyn Ferguson, a conservation scientist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

She would like to see more people help the turtles, when possible and safe, on less-travelled roads.

“Every turtle you save can have an ongoing impact on the population,” Ferguson said. “They can lay hundreds or thousands of eggs in their lifetime, adding to future generations.”

The problem, Ferguson said, is that turtles start laying eggs at maturity, which is about 20 years of age. Many of them are injured or killed before that, putting a dent in the turtle population.

The conservancy is encouraging motorists to get out of their vehicles — if on a safe-enough road — and carry smaller turtles to the other side. Snapping turtles, Ferguson said, can be picked up by their shell near the tail and walked across the road like a wheelbarrow, with the turtle on its front legs.

The conservancy said turtles are being hit on highways, busy roads and even back roads leading to cottages. While some areas like Long Point have built turtle tunnels for turtles to cross underneath roads, these structures are not in place everywhere.


Make sure the road is safe to pull over and help. Put your own safety first.

Move the turtle in the direction it was going, or it likely will try to cross again.

For turtles that hide their heads in their shells, like the Blanding’s turtle and the Midland painted turtle, pick them up and carry them across the road

Snapping turtles cannot hide their heads and have a sharp snout. Lift them using the “handles” on their shell on either side of their tail and “wheelbarrow” them across the road on their front legs.

Pushing or shoving turtles across roads with your feet or sticks isn’t advisable. Their shells aren’t as thick underneath and rough pavement can damage them. 

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