When Railguy and I were driving down a country road yesterday, we passed a marker indicating a turtle crossing area ahead. The road bisects an attractive swamp and marsh, something that could only happen in a crazy world, so it’s not too surprising that turtles would be seen there.
Sure enough, there at the edge of the road was a turtle, making its leisurely way to the other half of the swamp. We stopped the car and I got out to give him or her a hand.
It was a Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata), easily identified by the orange-red pattern at the edge of its carapace, or upper shell. It quickly withdrew its head and feet when I picked it up. I asked Railguy to hold it while I took a frontal photo.
Then I settled the turtle at the edge of the water that it had been heading towards.
There are eight species of turtles in Ontario. The Painted Turtle is the most common and widespread species. Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are still present in significant numbers but are vulnerable in some areas where populations were once stronger. The remaining 6 species (Blanding’s, Musk or Stinkpot, Map, Spotted, Spiny Softshell, and Wood) are all in trouble, listed as threatened or endangered. Threats to turtles include the loss of wetland habitat, road mortality, pollution, collection as pets, and predation. These pressures may soon overwhelm these important wetland ecosystem members.
But wait! That naughty turtle! The sign clearly indicates that turtles are to cross the road between May and September, and here it is only March! You can report miscreants to the Ontario Turtle Tally linked here, and help them keep track of these poorly-behaved individuals.