GUELPH, ON (June 4, 2021) – The Guelph Humane Society (GHS) would like to remind motorists to watch out for turtles at this time of year, especially as we head into a hot and humid stretch of weather.
“We have only had three or four calls about turtles so far this spring,” says Lisa Veit, Associate Director of GHS, “but looking at this forecast, with a few hot and humid days in a row, we expect more turtle calls to start coming in.”
Turtles are at the beginning of their egg-laying season, which will continue until early July. Females often will lay their eggs in the sandy, gravel shoulders along our roads, then while crossing the roadways they are at significant risk of injuries or death due to collisions with vehicles.
There are eight native species of turtles in Ontario, and all are designated as either endangered, threatened, or of special concern. Road mortality is second only to habitat loss, as a contributing factor to declining populations. The life cycle of turtles makes them very vulnerable to the loss of even a small number of adults within a population, which is why helping to ensure their safe crossing of roads is so important.
“If it is safe to do so, please consider stopping and giving them a helping hand,” says Veit. “Remember to always move a turtle across the road in the direction that they are headed. And with the exception of snapping turtles, you can actually pick up the turtle with two hands – one on either side of the shell – and carefully transport them across the road.”
If you aren’t sure of the species you’re dealing with, you should always handle it as if it is a snapping turtle.
“When it comes to snapping turtles, you need to be extra cautious because they have long necks and can reach out and give a nasty bite,” Veit explains. “Instead of using your hands to pick up the turtle, use a car mat or shovel to carry them across the road.”
Veit recommends approaching snapping turtles from the rear, then firmly grip the turtle at the rear of its shell, on either side of its tail. Slide the turtle onto the car mat or shovel, and continue to slide the car mat or shovel safely across the road while holding the turtle by the back of its shell.
As a precaution, disinfect your hands afterwards, as turtles can carry salmonella. And never pick up a turtle by the tail, as it can cause a serious injury to their spinal column.
If you find an injured turtle, and it is safe to do so, remove it from the road and secure it in a box or plastic tote. Then call GHS at 519-824-3091, noting the exact location where the turtle was found.
“Turtles are incredibly robust and capable of recovering from extensive trauma to their shell,” Veit says. “Our team can assess the injuries and provide supportive care. If rehabilitation is possible, we’ll arrange for one of our volunteer wildlife drivers to transport the animal to a wildlife rehabilitation centre that specialize in turtle care.”
You’re also being asked to contact GHS if you find deceased turtles along roadways. If the turtle is female, her eggs can potentially be extracted, incubated and hatched for release, which is an important aspect to conservation efforts as turtle populations continue to decrease.
Visit the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre at https://ontarioturtle.ca/ for more resources on turtles and identifying different species.
About the Guelph Humane Society
The Guelph Humane Society advocates for all animals, and in particular those animals whose lives it can influence, through care, education, community support, protection, and leadership. Founded in 1893, the Guelph Humane Society provides care and shelter for approximately 3,000 homeless, stray, injured and abused animals each year in Guelph and Wellington County. GHS is a registered charitable, non-profit organization that does not receive government funding. Visit www.guelphhumane.ca to discover more.
Manager, Marketing and Communications
Guelph Humane Society