The importance of protecting Quebec's endangered turtles.

Chelsea Quebec Local logo
by The Local
April 9, 2024
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Photo credits:
Carapace.ca
Hey there, turtle enthusiasts! Did you know that six out of eight species of turtles in Quebec are endangered? It's a startling fact that highlights the urgent need for conservation efforts to protect these fascinating creatures. Today, I want to shed some light on the incredible work being done by the Carapace Project and how you can get involved in safeguarding Quebec's turtle population.

Join the Carapace Project Today!

While it may still feel like early days, I couldn't wait to share this amazing initiative with you all. The Carapace Project is dedicated to protecting Quebec's endangered turtles through research, conservation, and community engagement. Let's dive into how you can become a part of this important mission.

Understanding the Challenges

Picture this: it's June, and you spot a turtle crossing the road. It's a common sight during mating season, but did you know that this seemingly innocent journey can be perilous for these gentle reptiles? Let's explore the challenges faced by Quebec's turtles and what we can do to help them.

Be a Turtle Hero!

Feeling inspired to make a difference? Good news – you can! From reporting turtle sightings to practicing road safety measures, there are plenty of ways to lend a helping hand to Quebec's turtles. Let's dive into some practical steps we can all take to protect these amazing creatures.

Contacts for Information:

  • Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs - Outaouais
  • Olivier Cameron Trudelsome text
    • olivier.trudel@mffp.gouv.qc.ca
    • 819 246-4827, poste 248
  • Nature Conservancy of Canada
  • Francisco Retamal Diazsome text
    • francisco.diaz@conservationdelanature.ca
  • Bénévole - Biologiste expert
  • Daniel Toussaintsome text
    • danieltoussaint@videotron.ca

Learn more about Carapace:

The Carapace project is managed by a Gatineau-based turtle enthusiast as part of her various activities with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Consultants, interns, and partners also provide some help to validate and analyze the data.

Turtle Protection:

Turtles may take up to 25 years before reproducing, and their egg survival rate is very low (approximately 2 eggs out of 100 become adult turtles). To maintain their numbers within a population, turtles, therefore, count on the survival of the adults, especially the females.

However, human activities in the habitat bring many threats and increase adult mortality rates, which can have serious consequences on a population. For example, scientists have determined that an increase of more than 5 % in annual mortality for the Wood and Blanding’s turtles could lead to the decline of a population.

Every effort counts to protect our turtle populations!

Do not hesitate to raise awareness about Carapace by sharing it on social networks. The success of this platform depends on users who know about it and use it. You can also donate to help manage the platform and protect turtles.

Importance of Turtles in an Ecosystem:

All species are important within an ecosystem. Turtles have a role both as a predator and prey. They help clean up ponds or lakes by eating plants, insects, and dead fish while representing a food source for other animals. They also help to disperse other life forms by travelling from wetlands to wetlands.

Removing any species from its ecosystem can drastically affect the balance by altering other organisms. As humans, we don’t necessarily see the impact of each species on our well-being, though a slight change may have a trickle effect which can eventually have consequences on our lives. Think of an ecosystem as an airplane from which you remove nuts and bolts here and there. At one point don’t you think the plane would crash?

Quebec Turtles Species Identification:

Excellent French tools exist to identify the different species of turtles in Quebec, including the Atlas des Amphibiens et reptiles du Québec and the guide “Amphibiens et reptiles du Québec et des Maritimes” (Desroches et Rodrigue), available in bookstores.

For English tools, we invite you to browse the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre website.

Nesting and Eggs: How to Help

During nesting or egg laying, females mainly look for sites with sandy, earthy, or gravelly soil to lay their eggs. Shoulders of unpaved roads often attract females for egg-laying. However, these areas are unsafe for both the eggs and the turtles, as nests can be compacted by cars, eggs destroyed, and females crushed. Be vigilant along roadsides!

Sometimes you may find eggshells scattered on the ground surrounding a turtle nest. These eggs have been targeted by predators, such as raccoons, foxes, and skunks. Although sad to see, egg predation is part of the turtle's life cycle and biology. Turtles have a low egg survival rate and late sexual maturity. The real problem, though, comes from human-induced mortality that disrupts the life cycle of turtles. Studies show that if a two to three percent rate of road fatality is added annually to current environmental pressures, a long-term population decline of most turtle species is possible. To prevent a decline, the main focus should be on protecting adult turtles and reducing the risk of road collisions.

Never disturb, touch, or move a turtle or its eggs! If you want to protect a nest from predators on your property, contact an expert in your region or check out the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s info sheet to build a nest protector. Note that the document indicates to leave the protector in place until late October; however, if you are not able to regularly monitor the hatching, it is best to remove the protector at the end of July.

Dead or Injured Turtle:

Report your dead turtle observations on our Carapace sighting form. We document turtle mortality.

Carapace is a virtual data collection platform. We’re not a turtle rehabilitation center and do not have the expertise to treat injured turtles. However, here are some useful tips if you find a turtle injured that was hit by a car:

  • Do not rinse it or put it in water.
  • Do not feed it.
  • Do not turn it on its back, this might injure it further!
  • Place the turtle in a well-ventilated container in a cool dark place, away from predators, insects, and sun.
  • Contact an expert who can assess the situation and guide you.
  • Report your observation on our sighting form. We document injured turtles' occurrences.

If you are unable to quickly contact an expert, try to keep the turtle hydrated by offering a bowl of water or by trickling water in front of its beak. Our list is updated whenever an expert agrees to have their contact information published.

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