All about wood turtles!

Thanks to Penni Burrell for taking some notes at last night’s public talk on wood turtles!  Here are some of her thoughts:

Why we had the presentation:
The last wood turtle sighting in the area of the Jijuktu’kwejk river was in the 1980’s. The 4 summer students found areas that could be good nesting sites, in terms of the natural habitation. The river would likely need to be cleaned up for them to be used by wood turtles. Funds are needed to have formal studies done to see if there are wood turtles in the more untouched areas of the watershed.

Some reasons why wood turtles are endangered:
They are not fertile until at least 12 years old, sometimes up to 20.
They only lay 12 eggs at most per year. Frogs, by comparison lay thousands.
They usually return to the same place every year – that may have been disturbed.
Their nests are vulnerable to local predators whose populations are increasing: raccoons, skunks and coyotes. It is when they are newly hatched that they are the most vulnerable.
They need deep cold water to winter in with rocks on the bottom. Rivers such as the Jijuktu’kwejk are full of sludge so the rocks are not easy to get to.

FYI of how wood turtles are being preserved in areas of Nova Scotia where they are more prevalent, such as the Annapolis River watershed:
Farmers are given financial incentives to not cut hay until after July 15, when the nesting season is pretty well over. (Hay only, as the other crops are usually only reaped well after nesting season).
Farmers are given financial incentives to raise their mowing blade levels to be high enough to miss the low heights of wood turtles.
There are information videos and handouts to educate farmers about why this is important that are clear, brief and done in a way that makes learning easy and interesting. They are available upon request to share with farmers.

And for the many of us who thought turtles were deaf because they don’t have ears (Google is full of ‘true or false’ queries) – they do hear, and the noise of the combines sometimes scares them enough to get out of the way.

For those of us who encounter turtles on the road:
All turtle types gravitate towards roads, as gravel is their natural nesting place – and roads tend to have gravel at the side.
If you see them on the road, pick them up and move them off the road in the direction they were headed – not back to where they came from. They know where they are going, and have their reasons. Help them continue on their path :).
Snapping turtles are dangerous. look like dinosaurs, havejagged edges and dull colours. All the others have more vibrant colours. You can safely push snapping turtles with a piece of wood to safety.

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