Skip to main content

RBG Protecting Turtles in Cootes Paradise

Playing Mother Nature with the Blanding’s turtle
Hamilton Spectator
By Mark McNeil 

They don't move too fast, but they go pretty far.

And that's a big part of the reason why Blanding's turtles are in such peril in Cootes Paradise and other wetland areas of Royal Botanical Gardens property.

Females like to ramble long distances before laying eggs and that can get them run over by automobiles, scooped by kids looking for a pet, or facing other dangers.

Consequently, numbers of the reptile listed as threatened by the province have severely declined to a point that RBG biologists estimate there are only four or five in all of Cootes Paradise and maybe another 20 in the Grindstone Creek (Hendrie Valley) area.

Faced with the real prospect of losing the species from the area altogether, RBG workers have decided to play Mother Nature using radio telemetry and incubation.

This spring, they outfitted three reproductive Blanding's turtle females with radio transmitters and, after weeks of tracking, were able to locate two nests left by two of the mothers. One nest had 10 eggs and the other 13.

So they gathered up the 23 fragile eggs and put them in an incubator in the RBG Centre building to be carefully monitored over the next several weeks.

"We want to make the conditions ideal for them to hatch," says Kathryn Harrison, species at risk biologist with the RBG.

In the wild, she says, the eggs would have faced all kinds of hazards from cold weather, to trampling to being eaten by raccoons or foxes.

The eggs in the incubator should hatch in late August and early September. The RBG is hoping that, under these optimum conditions, all the eggs will hatch.

After a week, they'll be released back into the wilds of Cootes Paradise, with fingers crossed that a good number of them will survive accidents and predators and make it into adulthood.

"Life is tough for baby turtles," says Harrison. "They can find themselves in all kinds of problems."

Female turtles, she says, will need to live 15 to 25 years before they are capable of producing eggs, and that's the big goal of the effort to make the species sustainable into the future.

Asked why the RBG doesn't simply stock its marshes with Blanding's turtles raised in a laboratory, Harrison says, "the turtles we want to be in this area are turtles that are from this area."

It's far better, she says, to reproduce turtles "whose genetics have adapted for life in this area."

As well, she says, moving turtles from another area to here, could transport diseases with them.


The Blanding's turtle:

Is a medium-sized turtle (reaching up to 27 centimetres in length) with a bright yellow throat and chin. Different to other local turtles, with flatter shells, the Blanding's turtle has a more rounded dome shaped like an army helmet;

Lives in shallow water, usually in wetlands or shallow lakes with lots of water plants. They hibernate in mud at the bottom of water bodies from late October until the end of April;

• Is listed by the province as threatened, meaning it is "likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors threatening it."

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Urquhart Butterfly Garden speaker series

A lovely butterfly garden is the perfect setting for this annual speaker series. August 4, 2018, Guest speaker: Doreen Nicoll You cannot have Monarch Butterflies without milkweed.  Doreen Nicoll has recently become a heroine for monarch butterflies, by insisting on her rights to grow milkweed in her naturalized garden in Burlington. Doreen  Nicoll has long understood that garden with nature and not against her is the best thing for our planet. She also knows that native plants are great at attracting butterflies and bees of all species. Doreen will be the first presenter in the Summer Series at the Urquhart Butterfly Garden and her topic will be Monarchs and Their Milkweed and naturalized gardening. She has wealth of information and is fun as well! The session will begin at 11 am Saturday on August 4 and last approximately one hour.  Please bring a chair. If it rains the session will be cancelled. For more information about the Urquhart Butterfly Garden please visit ur

stepping up the battle for trails

I share the columnist's (see below) angst about some of the trail closures in Cootes Paradise and the observation that the impacts of walking on habitat are less damaging than driving. Nevertheless, I can appreciate that some of the trails can and should be closed to preserve sensitive habitat. It is because Cootes is surrounded by a city that the impacts of both cars and yes, even feet, can cumulatively degrade the integrity of this nature sanctuary. Blocking trails with bushes generally seems to occur on "unofficial" trails, though I have   previously expressed my concern with closing trails that once provided access through Cootes to hook up with the Spencer Creek Trail in Dundas. The utility of a trail as a path to someplace, rather than just a recreational loop, means a lot to me , and I have hoped the RBG would reconsider the trails layout with this in mind. Again, with so many people accessing Cootes, on foot and on mountain-bikes, the threat

Turtle Watching: Volunteers Needed

By fragmenting the western end of Cootes Paradise with a four lane highway (Cootes Drive 1936) and McMaster parking (1969), car drivers gain at the expense of intact habitat for a multitude of species. Road kill on Cootes accounts for a severe threat to the survival of at risk species, and perhaps none so glaringly as the slow moving turtles who inhabit the remnant marsh. Turtle, south of Cootes Drive near Spencer Creek. Photo r.k . A local volunteer group has, for the last few years, formed to assist the turtles and increase awareness, and (hopefully) survival rates.  Please consider giving some of your time to the turtles of Cootes Paradise. April 2012 Turtles will begin to move from their wintering sites in late May and their peak nesting period is mid-June. Dundas Turtle Watch identifies, monitors and rescues turtles at risk from traffic, and protects nests from predation wherever possible.  The group  is  looking for people with a digital camera  who are  prepa