Turtles at Point Pelee
Southwestern Ontario has the highest concentration and number of turtle species in Canada. Six of the eight turtle species native to Ontario can be found within Point Pelee National Park. Federally, all turtle species are designated as species at risk due to population declines as a result of road mortality, habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and nest predation.
Predation is a natural interaction, where the predator kills and eats their prey. For turtles at Point Pelee - nest predation, when turtle eggs are dug up and consumed, is also a natural process; however, with human induced changes in many landscapes, some natural predator numbers are much higher than they have been historically. This leads to increased nest predation by predators such as raccoons, moles, and crows/ravens which can reduce turtle populations over time.
Point Pelee Turtle Nest Protection
Turtle monitoring and nest protection has taken place in Point Pelee National Park for more than a decade. This work has helped to increase the number of turtle hatchlings entering into the overall population (a process known as juvenile recruitment) and decrease nest predation rates within the park. Staff from the park's Resource Conservation department, with the assistance of different program partners over the years, have protected approximately 835 turtle nests since the program began in 2001.
In June and July of 2020, Parks Canada staff conducted turtle surveys from sunrise to sunset to minimize any loss or harm due to the road reconstruction taking place. Over the course of nesting season, the turtle tracker team:
- Documented 185 turtle observations – 135 of which were associated with the road (e.g., crossing the road, actively nesting, digging test pits),
- Relocated 10 nests from the roadside to a more suitable area to avoid disturbance from construction activities, and
- Documented 54 nest locations, 25 of which were protected over the course of the summer.
Overall, 754 turtle hatchlings emerged from nests in Point Pelee during the 2020 field season – 518 of which were from nests protected as part of the turtle monitoring program.
All plants, animals, and natural objects within Point Pelee National Park are protected through the Canada National Parks Act. Further legal protections are provided to species listed in the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and those listed as at risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).