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Turtle Tales

April 17 - 23 is  International Turtle and Tortoise Awareness Week! Seriously. That's a thing. And it totally should be a thing, too. They are amazing creatures that deserve to be understood. They also deserve to be protected, so I was thrilled to find out that the province of Ontario recently banned the hunting of snapping turtles in the province.

Quick Fact: 
Seven of Eight turtle species in Ontario are at risk. 
That means they are in danger of extinction or disappearing from the province.

Spring is very timely for turtle awareness. They are starting to emerge from their recently thawed hibernation spots and before you know it, turtles across the province will be spotted attempting to cross roads and lay eggs in the soft shoulders. Every now and then, turtles could use a bit of help so they don't become another statistic on the road. If you see a turtle, give them a hand by moving them off the road in the direction they are headed. Use something handy in your car like a mat to drag them (and protect your fingers). And if you find a turtle that needs more than a lift across the street, reach out to a turtle conservation or trauma centre. Not sure where to find a centre? Start with these guys: www.ontarioturtle.ca

Over the years we've seen some very cool turtles in our travels around Ontario. The first time I saw a snapping turtle close-up, was a when it was trying to cross a rural road at dusk. Alex and I decided to try and help it cross the road. At that time, we didn't know a lot about turtles. Alex tried to pick it up by its shell. The turtle was NOT happy about it. In fact, it hissed really loud and scared us. We did get it off the road, but I don't think it was a pleasant experience for any of us - especially the turtle. While our first experience may have resulted in some hissing and dirty looks, I'd rather have a grumpy turtle than a squashed turtle and it was an important learning experience for us humans. I haven't had to help a turtle since then, but now I know the right way to do it!


Quick Fact: 
A group of turtles is called a Bale

A couple of years ago, we saw these guys sunning themselves on the bank of Hailstorm Creek in Algonquin Park. It was amazing to see so many painted turtles in one spot - this picture only shows a few of the group we saw. Considering ice-out in the park had just occurred a few weeks earlier, I can' say I blame them for taking in the May sunshine!



Since our first experience on that rural road a few years ago, we've seen quite a few snapping turtles. The biggest we've ever seen were at the Massassauga Provincial Park. We spotted this dinosaur while we were paddling to our site...


From a distance, it looked like a funny bump on the rock. But when we got closer, we realized that it was actually a massive snapper. Take a look at those claws!

Later in our trip, we had a visit from another, even larger turtle. It approached us without fear as we were swimming, silently making it's way towards us. It seemed genuinely curious and very friendly. (Although, I didn't attempt to get very close or touch it.) 


This friend hung around our site for a couple of days.



We suspect it had been fed in the past and was habituated to humans. While it was cool to see such a big turtle up close, it is NOT cool that it was so comfortable around us. So here's a public service reminder from your friends at Sometimes Eventful:

DO NOT FEED THE TURTLES!

These guys become habituated just like their furry friends in the forest and feeding them can be problematic for both humans and the turtles. As tempting as it may be, don't throw stuff in the water for them to eat.

Often when we think about wildlife in the province, our minds leap to the furry kind. Moose, bear and wolves are all really cool, but sometimes our first, safest and most memorable wildlife encounters can be accomplished thanks to the turtles that inhabit our wetlands, rivers and lakes. I know that meeting these modern-day dinosaurs has truly made most of our outdoor trips eventful!

Special thanks to our friends over at Paddle In. If it wasn't for you guys, I would never have known about this special week. Go check out Paddle In's site. They are HUGE turtle fans and are celebrating International Turtle and Tortoise Awareness week with special posts each day.

Do you have a turtle tale? Tell us about it over on Facebook or Twitter and remember to tag us with #WeGetOutside!