Fraser Wetlands: Endangered Turtle Habitat?

 

The Blanding’s Turtle

Sometimes called the “smiling turtle” because of the way its mouth curves endearingly at the edges, the Blanding’s Turtle is a semi-aquatic species that lives in wetlands, ponds, marshes, freshwater shorelines, and – according to a number of reported sightings – the Fraser Wetlands! This won’t surprise anyone familiar with the property and its predominance of swamps, bogs and wetlands. This particular species thrives is such environments, preferring shallow water rich in plant material and nutrients.

The Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) is named for the American naturalist, Dr. William Blanding (1773 – 1857), and found throughout the Great Lakes Region, including southern, central and Eastern Ontario, and in other isolated parts of Canada. Sadly, they are known to be in decline in Ontario where the at-risk species and its habitat are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

A few facts:

• The Blanding’s is a medium-sized turtle;

• its domed shell is dark brown to black, with speckling, and has been compared to an army helmet;

• its neck is long and its throat and belly are yellow, making it easy to identify;

• though the Blanding’s live in large wetlands, such as the Fraser Wetlands, they are known to roam hundreds of metres from a water source in search of a mate or nesting ground;

• the female Blanding’s can take up to 25 years to mature, and may live to 75 years or older;

• a mature female can lay 3 – 19 eggs every 2 or 3 years; the babies hatch from late September into October;

• from the end of October until the end of April, Blanding’s Turtles hibernate in the mud at the bottom of a permanent water source.

Threatened!

The Blanding’s Turtle, already a Species At Risk in the Kawartha region, faces a number of threats, including habitat fragmentation and destruction due to development, risky road crossings, and larger predators, such as racoons and foxes who may prey on the eggs.

According to the Government of Ontario, loss of habitat may be the turtle’s greatest threat: “The Blanding’s Turtle is at risk due to the loss of wetland habitat.” *

What should you do if you spot a Blanding’s Turtle? Report it immediately to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, who are diligently tracking Blanding’s activity. (It’s easy to register a sighting: The Ministry has an on-line reporting form – http://www.ontario.ca/form/rare-species-reporting-form.)

In the last two years, there have been a number of Blanding’s sightings at the edge and shoreline of the Fraser Estate.

What will all this mean for the condominium development plan for the Fraser Estate? It remains to be seen.

 

Sources: Nature Canada and *www.ontario.ca/page/blandings-turtle

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