The Royal Botanical Gardens, which owns environmental protection areas and cultural gardens in southern Ontario, wants people to resist taking photos of turtles and sharing them on social media because it could endanger the population.
“Unfortunately, turtle populations are in decline,” the organization, which is headquartered in Burlington and also serves the Hamilton area, said in a statement. “Nesting season is critical for rebuilding species numbers, but also comes with a host of challenges for turtles which are largely caused by human activity.”
The RBG said turtles nest in late May through July, with females burying eggs in dry, sunny, open areas. The hatchlings emerge between late July and October, but some spend the winter in the nest before leaving in the spring.
Revealing the location of turtles’ nests could be harmful, the RGB says.
“Although there are seven species native to the area, there are only four species of turtles that can still be found at RBG.
“It’s estimated that for every 1,400 snapping turtle eggs laid, only one will survive to adulthood. Low hatchling survival rates combined with the many years needed to reach sexual maturity means turtles are more susceptible to population decline.”
Canada’s turtle population at risk
The endangered turtle problem isn’t just an Ontario one.
The Canadian Wildlife Federation notes that all eight species of freshwater turtles have been designated species at risk by the federal government. The federation says the main threats to the species are:
- Road mortality.
- Habitat loss.
- Nest predation.
- Poaching for the pet trade.
In Nova Scotia, for example, all four native turtle species are at risk to different degrees, in part due to loss of habitat.
RBG also notes that turtles face multiple threats, including vehicles, habitat loss, invasive species, predator and poachers or smugglers.
“Our native turtle species are targeted by poachers for the illegal pet trade and consumption. Poachers monitor social media for tags and pictures that could help them locate turtles and nests.”
Local hot spots for turtles near roads include:
- Old Guelph Road.
- Plains Road West.
- Cootes Drive.
- Olympic Drive.
- King Street East.
Anyone sighting a turtle in the RBG’s jurisdiction should contact the organization, it says, adding it can only respond to calls that are near or on its property.
People can send a private message on social media, visit or call the main centre, or tell an RBG worker if they’re nearby.
Anyone who wants to file a report of a turtle spotting should include:
- Your name and contact information.
- What kind of turtle and how many turtles you saw.
- The turtle’s specific location (be as specific as possible).
- When you saw the turtle.
“Be on the lookout for female turtles that will be roaming further away from local wetlands to lay their eggs,” RBG said in the release.
RBG also said anyone finding turtles should give them space. It said if a turtle is hurt, call animal services, and if it is dead, you can contact RBG.