Turtles

If you have found a turtle or nest of eggs, determine when to rescue.

If you have found an uninjured turtle on the road, you can help it across.

If you have determined that a turtle needs rescuing, follow the temporary care instructions.

The three most common species of turtles in Eastern Ontario are the Blanding’s, Painted and Snapping.

Blanding's turtle on a rock

Help a Turtle Across The Road

Many of the turtles hit by cars are adult females on their way to lay eggs on dry land and June is the height of nesting season. Males also cross roads to reach other habitats.

You can help a turtle across the road in the direction it is going.

Most Ontario turtle species can be carefully picked up with two hands and moved across the road. You can also use a board of shovel to coax it along. Never pick up a turtle by the tail, which could damage its spine.

Be careful helping a snapping turtle across the road – keep a safe distance from its head as it can reach past its midpoint if it feels threatened. You can Identify a snapping turtle by the large black, olive or brown shells typically covered in algae. Their tails have “dinosaur-like” triangular crests along their length. Pictures of the three turtles native to the Ottawa region, including Snapping Turtles, are here.

You can coax a snapper across the road using a shovel or a board, or by allowing it to bite a long stick and pulling it across the road. If you must pick up a snapper by hand, grab the back of its shell with one hand, and slide your other hand underneath between its hind legs. Snappers are very strong and will squirm and thrash their hind legs, so hold on tightly.

This video demonstrates how to help a snapping turtle across the road. With seven of Ontario’s eight turtle species at risk, saving even one turtle can make a difference.

When to Rescue

Eggs

If you uncover a nest of turtle eggs, please leave them where you found them and cover them back up with the nesting material. If the eggs are disturbed, they may not survive.

Adults

Turtle hatchlings are born on dry land and find their way to the nearest water source. They are about the size of a loonie and are completely independent. If it does not show signs of needing rescue, it will find its way to the closest water body.

If you find an uninjured turtle on the road, you can help it across by moving it in the direction it is headed.

Signs that a turtle needs rescuing include:

  • unresponsiveness (it’s hard to determine when a turtle has passed away so err on the side of caution)
  • any head or limb injuries, or cracks to its carapace (upper shell), plastron (lower shell) or bridge (shell joining the carapace and plastron)
  • a turtle found upside down and unable to right itself, which may indicate dehydration and overheating
  • any turtle found from November to April, as they should be hibernating

Follow the turtle temporary care instructions.

Turtle Temporary Care Instructions

If you have found an injured turtle, take these steps until you contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.

  • Most turtles can be safely picked up using two hands at the back of their shell. However, snapping turtles can cause severe injuries if handled incorrectly. Keep away from their head as they can snap if they feel threatened. You can use a board or shovel to move the turtle. If you have to handle a snapping turtle, you can hold the back of its shell with one hand and slide your other hand underneath.
  • Place the turtle on a damp towel in a well ventilated plastic bin with a secure lid. Do not provide any food or water.
  • Keep the container in a dark, quiet place away from people and pets. Do not provided an added heat source for turtles. Please do not cause unnecessary stress by handling, talking to or peeking at the animal.
  • To reduce stress during transportation, please turn the radio off and leave your children and pets at home.

Turtles Species Identification

Ontario is home to eight species of turtle, seven of which are at risk.

The three most common turtle species in the Ottawa region are the Blanding’s, Painted and Snapping.