Where are they now?   4 comments

                As we’re all painfully aware, we’re heading into Ontario’s coldest time of year. Although the cold came late this year, it has arrived with a vengeance and all across the province waterways are freezing over. Safely tucked into muddy lake floors or burrowed deep under grassy tussocks in fens and marshes, our turtles are hibernating. This may seem to be a relatively safe season for turtles. Predators may be less likely to find them while they are hidden in their hibernation sites, and as long as everything stays stable, they can just ride out the winter cold until it’s time to emerge in the spring. And there’s the catch – it’s only safe if conditions are stable!

                Overwintering turtles and other aquatic wildlife depend on a constant supply of oxygen in the water to make it through the winter, as well as the water they are in remaining unfrozen. Some species require less oxygen than others and can tolerate changes in oxygen levels, surviving even when conditions are almost anoxic (“anoxic” means there is no available oxygen). However, if the oxygen levels really plummet even these species are likely to run into trouble. And if water freezes solid around hibernating turtles or fish, ice crystals can form in their tissue rupturing cells and causing serious injury and even death.

                So choosing a good hibernation site means choosing somewhere where the water conditions won’t change too much over the course of the winter.

                How does this relate to turtle conservation? Well, one way in which we can help protect turtles and other aquatic wildlife over the winter is by protecting our cooling and frozen wetlands from major disturbances. If wetlands are modified over the fall or winter in such a way that water levels change, the wildlife hibernating in them can be seriously affected. In severe cases, for example where water levels are dropped suddenly after turtles and other animals have already entered hibernation, sudden changes in water levels can cause huge die-offs. When the water under the ice becomes anoxic this can lead to large-scale fish kills and other problems, and since anoxia happens more quickly when there is less water available to hold the remaining oxygen, anoxic conditions develop more quickly when water levels drop.

                So although we are (sadly!) in a fairly turtle-free time of year, you can still help to protect Ontario turtles by keeping an eye on your local wetlands and making sure that any big changes that have to be made to them get saved until the spring!


–Christina Davy


Posted January 3, 2012 by thinkingturtles in Uncategorized

4 responses to “Where are they now?

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  1. I found a nest of dirt at the park it was like a hole It had 1 peach colored egg I don’t now if it’s a birds snacked or a snapping turtle and by the way the nest was wright next to the water

  2. I found a nest of dirt at the park it was like a hole It had 1 peach colored egg I don’t now if it’s a birds snake or a snapping turtle and by the way the nest was wright next to the water

  3. And it was a hole or a crater shape and it wasn’t filled with dirt the egg was in it

    • Interesting find! It sounds like you may have either found a bird egg which had been moved from the nest by a predator, or possibly an egg dropped by a turtle who was returning to the water before she had finished nesting. When female turtles are interrupted during nesting they sometimes drop eggs while rushing back to the safety of the water.

      Turtle (and snake) nests almost always contain more that one egg, and in a completed nest the eggs are usually covered with dirt, moss or leaves (depending on the species). This helps to keep them from drying out during incubation.

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