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Celebrating one of the world's oldest...and slowest creatures (5 photos)

Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre offers up some turtle tips for World Turtle Day

It’s not clear whether Bruce Cockburn will be singing, but Franklin and even some other not-so-famous turtles will be feted Saturday.

That’s because it’s World Turtle Day; a special calendar offering to celebrate and recognize one of the Earth’s oldest surviving amniotes.

And increasing awareness about this particular reptile is vitally important to its ongoing survival, according to Amanda Swick, event and volunteer coordinator at the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre near Midland.

“There are eight turtle species in Ontario and seven of the eight are at risk,” Swick said, noting two of the species found in this region are at risk with the Blanding’s turtle considered ‘threatened’ with the spotted turtle falling into the "endangered" category, which also features the wood and spiny softshell that live mainly in other parts of the province.

“Habitat loss is a major reason as well as road mortality," she said. "Seventy percent of Ontario’s wetlands have disappeared and turtles live in the wetlands.”

Two other commonly found turtles in the area are the midland painted and snapping, which is also listed as of “special concern,” a category that also includes eastern musk and northern map turtles.

And since turtles like to nest in gravelly and sandy areas, roadsides are a favoured spot to lay their eggs, according to Swick, who noted area residents should be on the lookout for turtles when out for a drive.

“They sometimes look like a bump in the road or debris. Brake and give them time to cross,” she said, adding people can also help turtles cross the road if it is safe to do so.

While the midland painted can be “picked up like a hamburger” and carried to help it get to the other side, the snapping turtle should just be coaxed across by slowly walking a few feet behind it, according to Swick.

And while the Wye Marsh remains closed to the public (something Swick hopes changes soon once Canadian Wildlife Services gives them the okay to reopen), she noted there are plenty of great spots in the area to view turtles, including Little, Gawley and Pettersen Parks in Midland along with Awenda Provincial Park.

Swick also shared some fun facts about turtles found in the area.

“Snapping Turtles can't fit entirely in their shell - their snapping is their defence mechanism,” she said, noting the upper part of a turtle's shell is called the carapace while the lower part is called the plastron.

“Blanding's turtles have a hinged plastron to help protect them when they hide inside, snapping turtles are Ontario's largest turtle and midland painted turtles live 29-44 years in the wild on average, the longest recorded one in the wild lived to be 60!”

Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Community Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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