June 5, 2023
Turtle Rehabilitation Release

Behold the turtle:  a slow, small, prehistoric animal essential to our wetlands, the world’s filtration system, and to our own survival.  Turtles are nutrient recycling seed dispensers who clean up the bottoms of our lakes and wetlands, ensuring their continued existence.

Ontario is home to eight types of turtles, all of which are of Special Concern, Threatened, or Endangered.  Their decline is due mostly to road mortality, boating accidents, habitat loss and poaching.

The Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre is the only dedicated turtle rehabilitation centre in the province.  They intake thousands of turtles in need of rehabilitation each year.

Earlier this Spring, I participated in the rehabilitation journey of an Eastern Musk Turtle and five Snapping Turtle Hatchlings. The Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre did the hard work and I was lucky enough to help facilitate their release back home.  How rewarding!

Adult Eastern Musk Turtle

After picking up the discharged parties in Peterborough mid-May, I took them  back to where they came from in Georgian Bay.  By law, rehabilitated wildlife needs to be released within their home range.  This is because adult animals know the area, where to get food, and where to hide.  This rule also prevents the spread of disease into new territories.

First up for release was the Eastern Musk Turtle.  This turtle was out from hibernation on the ice in the winter.  Fortunately, it was found by locals before freezing to death and brought in for rehab.

Adult Eastern Musk Turtle ready for release

This release wasn’t without hiccups.  While driving into the park which would provide access to the perfect weedy inlet to release this turtle, my vehicle got stuck in very deep mud. This attracted what would be a cheering squad of cottaging families who were eager to help me dislodge the vehicle and, of more interest, witness the release of this turtle.

We walked the turtle out close to the shoreline where there was plenty of vegetation and mud for him to forage in.  He was released and swam off into the depths of the water.  I’m sure he had missed his natural habitat while being in rehab and will now get to enjoy it for many years to come.  Eastern Musk Turtles can live for 40-60 years in the wild.

Eventually, I was able to free my vehicle from the mud (good thing for all wheel drive) and head off to our next location: Lake Joseph – the area where the Snapping Turtles would now call home.

These five hatchlings were still unborn when they were likely disturbed by construction.  Their eggs were brought into the rehabilitation centre in the fall where they were hatched and cared for until the turtles could go back home.


New home to 5 Snapping Turtle Hatchlings

Hatchlings require more planning to release than adults.  They should be spread out with good hiding places in an area that won’t dry up during the summer since they don’t travel far from their birth sites until they are a few years old.

We found a beautiful area in a small lake, undisturbed by development and safe from boats. The hatchlings were carefully placed one by one in the weeds.

In June, we will pick up a Blanding’s Turtle and two groups of Painted Map Turtle Hatchlings to be released in the Gravenhurst and Bala areas.

The work of the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre is critical to the survival of Ontario’s Turtles and thriving wetlands.  If you’re interested in learning more about Turtle Rehabilitation, you can visit their website here.

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