You’re out for a walk, taking in the familiar scenery by the waterfront. Windswept pines, sparkling water, a log floating by the shore, wet rocks lined up on the log, and – wait! Those aren’t rocks, they’re turtles! Turtles are a familiar sight around the Georgian Bay region, and they are incredible animals. Their defining trait – their shell – is a fantastic work of camouflage and defense. A turtle’s shell blends into the mud and plants in their wetland homes and makes it harder for other animals to harm them!

Four Fast Facts

  1. Ontario is home to eight different turtle species!
  2. Though snapping turtles only ‘snap’ at other animals when they are threatened, they can bite with around 20kg of force.
  3. Unlike us, turtles are cold-blooded and can’t warm up by themselves. They often bask in the sun to stay warm, and dive into cool waters when it gets too hot.
  4. The temperature a turtle egg experiences determines if a baby turtle hatches as a male or female. Colder eggs hatch into boy turtles, and warmer eggs hatch into girl turtles!

Turtles lead interesting and long lives. While it takes a few years for a baby turtle to grow into an adult, they can live for decades! Painted turtles often live to around 50 years, and it’s not unusual for a snapping turtle to live to be around 70.

During their long lives, turtles eat plants, bugs, and frogs. Every summer, female turtles migrate out of the water to find a safe place to lay eggs. They can use their claws to dig into sand, lay their eggs, and cover them up so that predators can’t find them. A lot of the time, this means turtles choose to nest along the sides of roads, where the sand and gravel seem like an appealing nursery. Sadly, our roads are not very turtle-friendly, which is part of the reason Ontario’s turtles are having a hard time.

Turtles Under Threat

Currently, all eight species of Ontario turtles are considered “at risk”. There are fewer and fewer wetlands for turtles to live in, and lots of turtles are injured on roads. With fewer places to live, and with such dangerous roads, even seemingly common animals like snapping turtles are not safe. However, since turtles live so long and can lay hundreds of eggs throughout their life, saving even a single adult turtle can make a big difference. By protecting our wetlands and being careful on roads, we can help keep Ontario’s turtles safe.

A painted turtle tucks itself perfectly into its shell for defense.
A snapping turtle crosses a road, searching for a nesting spot or traveling to a nearby wetland.