Northern Map Turtle
A turtle among humans
Over a two year period in 2009 and 2010, the Ecomuseum Zoo and its partners initiated an important study of the Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) population in the Lac des Deux-Montagnes. The objective was to obtain greater understanding and knowledge of the population in order to better protect it.
Why should we worry about the Northern Map Turtles of the Lake of Two Mountains?
Although the Northern Map Turtle is found in a few other locations in Quebec, the Lac des Deux-Montagnes population has the distinction of being one of only two of significant size remaining. The second population of significant size can be found in the Outaouais region. Unfortunately, the population found in the Lac des Deux-Montagnes faces many disadvantages with respect to the location of its habitat directly west of the island of Montreal where the level of human activity is very high. It goes without saying that threats to the survival of the species are numerous in an area so largely utilized by humans.
What are we doing?
In order to identify and ultimately reduce or eliminate threats to the survival of the Northern Map Turtle, we caught and released hundreds of turtles to determine their health status. The operation also allowed us to estimate the population size. This estimate will then be used to monitor the changing population size over time, and will determine if the population is growing or declining.
Over a two year period fifty-two male and female turtles were fitted with transmitters each emitting a unique frequency to identify and locate each individual. Monitoring of these turtles from May to November helped to identify important habitats used by the species, including basking and nesting sites and areas to hibernate. These habitats are crucial to the survival of turtles. The telemetric monitoring also allowed us to learn much about the biology and movements of the species.
How is the population doing?
Unfortunately, several captured turtles displayed injuries most probably caused by boat propellers as exemplified by the capture in 2009 of a transmitter-equipped turtle who was found to have had one of its front legs and part of its shell amputated by a collision with a motorboat propeller.
Nesting sites that are few and often located on private land, are devastated by raccoons and skunks who themselves have become superfluous in the region due to human activity that is favorable to their propagation. It is thus that citizens, well-intentioned as they may be in feeding small mammals in the region, are highly detrimental to the survival of the Northern Map Turtle species.
Once completed, the study clearly define the areas and habitats most important to preserve for the protection of the Northern Map Turtles of the Lake of Two Mountains. The protection of this species in peri-urban areas is a great challenge that we fully intend to meet with the support and cooperation of our partners.
To continue these efforts, since January 2013, the Ecomuseum Zoo has been working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in the drafting of the " Plan de conservation de la population de tortues géographiques de l’archipel de Montréal". The goal of this plan is to identify management and protective measures for key habitats used by the species, as well as to provide recommendations to mitigate the impact of threats to the population.
The Ecomuseum zoo is proud to play an important role in the recovery of this vulnerable species in Québec!