By Carol MacLeod
We are very lucky. “Our” Blanding’s turtle has been sighted three times in and around Brown’s Inlet ponds, once in July 2016 laying eggs along the path between Wilton and Ralph, once late this spring in the lower National Capital Commission pond and again in mid-May in the upper city-maintained pond.
The Blanding’s turtle is Ontario’s only turtle with a bright yellow throat and chin. Its shell, which is black to brown with yellow specks, is humped like an army helmet. It can be up to 27 centimetres long.
Blanding’s turtles live in shallow water and hibernate in mud at the bottom of permanent water. “Our” turtle may be hibernating under the ice in the lower pond as you play hockey! They begin to lay eggs when they are almost 20 years old and they live to 75. Their eggs are laid in July, possibly far from the water.
In addition to our resident Painted turtles, map turtles, also of “special concern,” have been spotted near the inlet ponds.
Blanding’s turtles are threatened in Ontario. The most significant threats to Blanding’s turtles are lost or fragmented habitat, road deaths, and raccoons and foxes that eat eggs. Without protection, they will become endangered. Their easternmost limit is the Ottawa area. The NCC tracks Blanding’s and other turtles in the Greenbelt and Mer Bleu, but the city offers no protection.
What you can do
- Keep your distance and take pictures.
- Report: Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry still tracks species at risk. Report sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre at its online form ontarionature.org/programs/citizen-science/reptile-amphibian-atlas#report Ontario. Photos and specific locations or mapping coordinates are helpful.
- The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas also collects observations of all Ontario reptiles and amphibians. Submit observations at: ontarionature.org/atlas. The Toronto Zoo Adopt-a-Pond website has information about rare Ontario turtles, habitat and conservation initiatives (torontozoo.com/Adoptapond).
- Leave the rafts and other logs in the ponds. Turtles must bask to digest their food. If you see “our” turtle in July laying eggs near Brown’s Inlet, just leave her. She knows what she’s doing! You could protect the nest with chicken wire.
- Private land owners who find Blanding’s turtles on their land may be eligible for stewardship programs that support protection and recovery
Carol MacLeod is chair of the Glebe Community Association Membership Committee, former co-chair of its Environment Committee, and an avid gardener and nature enthusiast.