There are 8 species of turtles in Ontario, and most of these can be found on Lake Huron. 7 of these turtle species are considered species at risk. Species at risk are classified into 4 categories, based on the degree of risk they face, and these species are protected by federal and provincial laws.
Turtles are an important part of Lake Huron’s coastal ecosystems. They scavenge on dead fish, consume large amounts of aquatic vegetation reducing plant biomass, and create channels through vegetation that fish and amphibians use. Turtles play an important role in the transfer of nutrients from water to land, and their eggs and hatchlings are important sources of food for mammals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes and opossums. The presence of turtles is an indicator of a healthy aquatic ecosystem which benefits humans as well.
Depending on the species, turtles may take up to 24 years to reach reproductive maturity and may live well over 100 years. Reproductive events produce low egg and juvenile survival rates, with an estimated 0.1% of hatchlings surviving to maturity in some species. It could take over 1,000 eggs for an adult turtle to replace itself, meaning it could take many decades to replace adults lost from an area.
Some of our turtle species, such as the Blanding’s Turtle, may travel up to 6 km in search of nesting habitat. In southern Ontario, one cannot travel more than 1.5 km without crossing a road, so turtles may have to cross several roads to reach their nesting site. Research has shown that it takes some species of turtles an average of 9 minutes to cross a road, making them particularly vulnerable to road mortality during nesting season, from May to July.
To learn more about turtles and how you can help them, read our Lake Huron's Turtles and the Coastal Wetlands They Call Home booklet, and watch our videos below!
Programs| Protecting Turtle Species at Risk
Working for Wetlands
Lake Huron's coastal wetlands are extremely productive and diverse communities of plant and animal life. They are vital to the well-being of the Great Lakes ecosystem, and provide benefits including water purification, flood prevention, and habitat for many unique species, including turtles. Watch our video to learn more about coastal wetlands, and the turtles that call them home!
Become a turtle crossing guard: learn how to help Lake Huron's turtles cross the road!
Learn how you can help Lake Huron's turtles, by reporting sightings to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas or to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre!