10,000 Hatchlings Released and Counting

World spinning
World spinning

The rare Turtle Project was launched in 2017 to help mitigate human impacts on turtle populations in Waterloo Region and Wellington County.

Turtles require a long, warm season to successfully reproduce. Southwestern Ontario in particular has the largest diversity and highest concentrations of reptiles and amphibians in all of Canada — but also contains the highest concentration of people, largest network of roads and most extensive land manipulation. Habitat fragmentation and road mortality take a large toll on the adult population, resulting in significant declines to species since turtles are long-lived animals with low recruitment rates.

It can take decades for a turtle to replace itself in the wild. To help offset the losses, we are collecting nests from unsuitable locations that are appealing to turtles due to the substrate but put the nests and hatchlings at risk such as construction sites, roadsides, soccer fields, parking lots and volleyball courts.

The eggs are taken to rare, where they are artificially incubated until they hatch. Hatchlings are then returned to a safe area close to the collection site — often within 100 metres. Incubation at rare protects the nest from issues such as compaction and helps improve the success rate of the nest once the hatchlings are returned.

Data is also being collected on nesting locations and adult mortality along roads to help identify “hotspots” of turtle activity. In the future, data will show which locations would benefit most from mitigation measures such as artificial nesting locations and wildlife corridors.

Turtle info graphic showing 10,000 turtle hatchlings released since turtle rescue began