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Save a turtle this spring

With spring well underway, many turtles have started their journeys to nesting sites. This often means they will end up on the road as part of their travels, and in danger from cars. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) encourages drivers to be hyper-aware this spring, especially as turtles will sometimes lay their eggs on the side of the road or try to cross the street. This is particularly prominent in areas with a lot of wetlands.

There are seven species of freshwater turtles in Quebec, five of which are endangered. In the past few years, the NCC has introduced things like road signs and wildlife crossings to strategically protect the turtles. They also encourage people to record any turtles they see at their website, carapace.ca, to gather information and know how to best apply protective measures for turtles.

This site has been around since 2017 and engagement has grown significantly. In 2023, 1,800 sightings were reported, and the total number recorded is sitting around 11,800, with the most sightings being in the Eastern Townships and the Montérégie. It’s important to track the creatures across the province, and the help of the public is hugely important since certain species are only found in certain areas.

 

A painted turtle sits on the side of a road inside the Lac Saint François National Wildlife Area in Dundee PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

The NCC recommends a few things if you see a turtle on the road. The first is to make sure you are respecting the highway rules, and check that it is safe to stop. Next, help the turtle get across the road, but be careful not to get bitten. Then they recommend backing away slowly, to not scare the turtle, and take a picture so it can be reported.

While carrying a turtle, lift it with both hands while supporting its belly. Carry it close to the ground so that it does not get injured if you drop it. If it is a snapping turtle, it will have “handles” on the back of the shell; use these to lift the back of the turtle and guide it wheelbarrow-style across the road. It’s important not to pick up a turtle by the tail because that could injure its internal organs.

If you come across an injured turtle, contact the Éco-Nature rehabilitation centre immediately at sostortues@eco-nature.ca.

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