Only two of Ontario’s eight native turtle species are likely to be found here: midland painted turtles and common snapping turtles.
Headwaters wetlands are rich repositories of life but they don’t support very many turtle species. Only two of Ontario’s eight native turtle species are likely to be found here: midland painted turtles and common snapping turtles.
Blanding’s turtles and spotted turtles have been recorded in the past from Luther Marsh but, if they’re still there, their numbers are almost certainly very low.
No doubt the situation differed historically. Blanding’s turtles were undoubtedly more widespread in our hills. These lovely turtles, with high-domed shells and canary yellow throats, can live in all manner of wetlands. But they have an itinerant lifestyle that exposes them to the preeminent turtle “predator” of today – automobiles.
Spotted turtles may have been present in our hills beyond Luther Marsh too, but this species also dies on roads and is coveted by poachers. And since the cuteness factor of spotted turtles is off the charts, incidental collection by otherwise well-meaning people is also a threat.
Another species we’ve likely lost is the wonderful wood turtle, a creature with a shell that appears sculpted from fine oak. Noted for their intelligence, wood turtles in Algonquin Park have been observed summoning earthworms to the surface by tapping their forelegs on the ground.
Wood turtles live in and near streams – even small streams, and we have plenty of those in the Headwaters. But they also wander widely, bringing them into contact with cars, tractors, and ATVs. And like spotted turtles, they are highly prized by poachers.
Three species of Ontario turtles that likely never inhabited our hills include northern map, eastern musk and spiny softshell turtles. All need the well oxygenated water of large lakes and rivers to survive, habitat in short supply here.
Should you find any species other than painted and snapping turtles in the Headwaters, consider yourself very lucky. And please share your discovery with the appropriate conservation authority.