Turtle News - Fall 2014

Baby snapping turtles head to the pond from their nest at the Children's Garden. READ MORE


Turtle Species in High Park

Red-eared Slider Trachemys scripta - common at the pond; non-native species, frequently released and apparently able to over-winter

Snapping Turtle Chelydra serpentina - common

Midland Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta marginata - common at the pond, declining in number

Red-eared Slider
Tony Pus
Red "Ear"
David Stoneleigh
Red-eared Slider

By far, the park’s most abundant breeding turtle is the red-eared slider – the common turtle of home aquariums – released into the park’s ponds when they are no longer wanted as pets. This non-native invasive species is thriving and displacing the native population of Midland painted turtles.

Common Snapping Turtle
Snapping Turtle
Tony Pus

The common snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle found in Canada, with a shell length of up to 50 cm (19.5 in.) and weight exceeding 15 kg (33 lb.) Its serpentine neck, massive head, muscular legs, and relatively long tail make it seem even larger. It is estimated that they can live 30 to 40 years in the wild, perhaps even longer.

These turtles consume various aquatic plants and animals, including fish, frogs, birds and small mammals. They are also scavengers, eating dead fish and drowned mammals.

Snapping Turtle laying eggs
Tony Pus

Snappers are generally nocturnal. During the day, they bury themselves into the bottom mud or sand, and wait to for prey to swim by. At night, they usually are more active, foraging and pursuing their food.

Common snapping turtles are defensive if confronted on land, but in the water, they usually slip quietly away from any disturbance. They usually prefer slow-moving water with a muddy bottom and plenty of vegetation; they are found in ponds, lakes, rivers and streams.

Common snapping turtles become dormant during the winter. Quite often, they bury themselves into muddy bottoms of ponds for long periods of time. Mating occurs in the water, usually in early spring, and females begin to migrate toward traditional nesting areas, sometimes traveling more than 10 km (6 mi.) away. Nesting usually occurs from May to June. The females lay white round eggs, and the young usually hatch in September or early October.

The snapping turtle is currently listed as Special Concern under the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 and Special Concern under the federal Species at Risk Act. The species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

Midland Painted Turtle
Colin Marcano

Listed as common in High Park but declining in number.

Blanding's Turtle
David Kaposi

This species occurred in High Park historically.

If you see a snapper laying eggs please do not disturb or try to add protection to the site. The risk of nest predation greatly diminishes once the nest is even a few days old (this is because most predators find the nest using scent cues left behind by the mother when she deposits the eggs). In a park setting, it is probably safer to not draw attention to the site by trying to add any protective covering (which, in any case, would need to be removed in time for the eggs to hatch).

Source: http://www.nature.ca

See also:

Ontario Nature Factsheet

Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre

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Content last modified on October 15, 2014, at 07:48 PM EST