Conservation in action: Turtles in the midst of human activity!

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Conservation in action: Turtles in the midst of human activity!

Did you know that five out of eight turtle species in Québec have a threatened or vulnerable status? The reasons for this are numerous: predation, pollution, but more importantly, habitat destruction and increased adult mortality due to human activities (road fatalities, collisions with watercraft, etc.). So what does the Ecomuseum Zoo’s research and conservation team do to help this situation?

The Map Turtle: a turtle among humans!

The Map Turtle has a vulnerable status at the provincial level. In order to give it a helping hand, our team studies the species’ situation on Lac des Deux-Montagnes, to obtain greater knowledge and understanding of the population in order to better protect it. But why at this exact location? Although the Northern Map Turtle is found in a few other locations in Québec, the Lac des Deux-Montagnes population has the distinction of being one of only two of significant size remaining.

It goes without saying that threats to the survival of the species are numerous in this area. Levels of human activity is extremely high making the protection of the habitats even more important for the Map Turtle. This year, a five-year agreement was signed between the Village of Senneville, the construction firm Broccolini and the Ecomuseum Zoo. This agreement will allow our team to work on improving and protection the Map Turtle habitat in Lac des Deux-Montagnes.

So what are we doing concretely? We create areas for the turtles to bask in the sun, crucial for their health, we set up hatching areas and we protect these sites from predators. This project will unfold in stages. The studies conducted by our teams in recent years have allowed us to determine the habits of the species in the region, the health of the population and the important habitats they use. Thanks to this information, the work undertaken in the next few years will be even more relevant and accurate. We first need to obtain the necessary permits to create the turtle facilities; work expected to be done this coming winter. Once everything is created, the turtles will be introduced to the new installations. We hope for positive results in the next few years: a high rate of reproduction success and individual survival. To be continued!

To the rescue of the Wood Turtle!

For many years now the Ecomuseum Zoo has worked to protect Canada’s most important Wood Turtle hatching site. Also stuck with a threatened status, this land turtle encounters many threats related to its habitat.

A few years ago, the Ecomuseum Zoo and its partners bought a three acre nature reserve in the Mauricie region. Despite its small size, the nature reserve allows for the preservation in perpetuity of the overall integrity and natural characteristics of this unique nesting site. The Ecomuseum Zoo began in 2014 and continues in 2015 to develop a management plan to completely restore the nesting sites. At this time abundant vegetation is invading the site, which is harmful for the species’ reproduction. This restoration project, made possible thanks to the participation of the Programme d’intendance de l’habitat des espèces en péril d’Environnement Canada and the Fondation de la Faune du Québec, is essential to maintain the largest known population of the Wood Turtle in Québec. It is a long term project that will occupy us for years to come!

How can you help?

It’s easy: if you cross paths with a turtle, leave it alone. If it seems to be in distress in the middle of the road and if it’s safe for you and the other users of the road, help it cross the street in a safe way by guiding it to the side it was aiming to go: there’s a reason why it wanted to cross the street! The turtle might have been on its way to lay eggs, and it’s a process we do not want to disturb.

If you live close to a natural environment of this type try to respect it as much as possible. Before starting to work on your land, it may be a good idea to consult a biologist to see if there will be an impact on the environment. Above all, do not feed wildlife and keep your garbage bags well protected. Several predators such as Raccoons, Skunks, Fox or Coyotes will take advantage of such a “good” source of food, will become too numerous and will attack the turtle nests in large numbers. These are small gestures that can make a big difference!

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