Threatened Turtles Of Canada

An Eastern Box Turtle on the forest floor.
An Eastern Box Turtle on the forest floor.

Canada's most endangered turtles include the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle and the Pacific Pond and Eastern Box turtles, the latter two possibly now being regionally extinct. The turtles living in accessible areas or around the beaches are at high risk of extinction. Human populations and electricity are becoming a major problem to hatchlings. The skylight guides hatchlings back to sea, but the lighting from houses misguide them. Pet trade also threatens the turtles. The landscape of Canada, especially the Southern parts of Ontario, close to the Atlantic Ocean provides perfect habitat for these species to thrive, however, human activities interfere with these habitats and endanger the fragile animals. Most turtles need water to survive. However, human activities such as water pollution and deforestation are ruining the natural habitats of these turtles. If not for humans, the species would be thriving in their natural habitats.

Pacific Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata)

The Pacific Pond Turtle is a medium-sized, dark brown turtle with a flat carapace. There is a pattern of spots or lines running from the center of the scutes. The legs are yellow with black speckling. The black head has many spots and may show a yellowish coloring. The males have a light throat with no markings and a flatter shell while females have darkly marked throats, and the shell is tall. Actinemys marmorata are omnivorous feedings on insects, crayfish, and aquatic invertebrates, as well as such plants as algae, lily pads, and cattail roots. Females lay 5 to 13 eggs in every clutch on ground nests facing southwards. They then conceal the nest with soil and vegetation. The eggs hatch in the next spring. Young ones reach sexual maturity in 10 to 12 years. Human threatens these turtles by destroying their habitats through contamination of water, and removal of ponds and wetlands the species are vulnerable and face a threat of extinction.

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)

The Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle is one of the smallest sea turtles in the world. The adult is broad with a light gray-olive color. The plastron is whitish to yellow. Juveniles have gray-black carapaces and plastrons. The species exhibit sexual dimorphism but males have longer, recurved claws, a more distal vent, and, when breeding, the mid-plastron softens. Lepidochelys kempii prefers the coastal areas of Southern Canada, northwest Atlantic Ocean and in the Gulf of Mexico. The female Kemps exhibits a nesting behavior called "arribada," which means arrival in Spanish. In the breeding season, female congregate in the shallow parts of the sea and then emerge at once when laying their eggs on the beach. She lays 50 to 200 eggs which she buries and conceals in hollow pits. Incubation takes two months, and the moonlight guides the hatchling back to sea. Only those who reach the sea at night survive. Human settlements near the sea misdirect some hatchling. Others collect eggs and juveniles, or kill adults for meat, and fish them. Turtle Excluder Devices is one conservation device used to protect these turtles.

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene Carolina)

The Eastern Box Turtle is a terrestrial box turtle found throughout Southern Ontario in Canada, in Maine, Michigan, and the Eastern Seaboard in the United States, and on the Yucatan Peninsula and along the Gulf of Mexico in Mexico. Females have brown irises while males are red. Also, males have shorter, stockier, and curvier hind claws. Terrapene Carolina has a medium sized head and a distinctive hooked upper jaw. Females have yellow and tails are longer and thicker than those of males. The turtle has a high domed carapace upper shells and large, hinged plastron lower shells. The carapace has orange or yellow lines, spots or blotches and the plastron is uniformly colored or has darker stains. It is omnivorous feeding on small invertebrates and plants. In summer they live near swamps and marshes. The turtle uses saliva to stay cool or urinate on its hind legs. They prefer hiding in rotting leaves, logs, or burrows. During the summer, a female lays 1 to 11 eggs in a patch of sandy or loamy sands. Incubation takes 70 to 80 days. In Canada, the species hibernate in October or November. These turtle population is declining rapidly due to habitat loss, capture for the pet trade and road killing. Also, the turtle has an extremely long life and can line up to 138 years, but reproduce slowly making the Terrapene Carolina particularly vulnerable. The Convection on International Trade in Endangered Species protects the turtle from the pet traders.

Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta)

The Wood Turtle is a freshwater turtle with a sculptured carapace that is mostly grayish-brown with dark lines and dots. The plastron is yellow with black splotches. Males have a concave underpart while females are flat. Males are larger with broader heads and longer, thicker tails than those of females. The turtle has a brown background with red or yellow legs and necks. The wood turtle thrives in Ontario, Quebec, and Brunswick. The species hibernates at the bottom of the water, lives around water during spring and fall, and on land during summers. It also lives in bogs, marshes, meadows, coniferous forests, mixed forests and agricultural lands. Breeding starts in spring where a female lays 1 to 10 eggs. The incubation temperature determines hatchling sex. Incubation is between 2 to 3 months. The juveniles soon migrate towards the sea, as the turtles do not offer parental care. Juveniles reach sexual maturity within 11 to 22 years. Glyptemys insculpta feeds on flowers, mushrooms, and alder leaves, as well as dead fish, snails, tadpoles, insects, and larvae. Threats to the species include road traffic and agricultural machinery, destruction of nests by the snowmobiles and recreational vehicles. The federal government protects the species under the "Species at Risk Act.” In Ontario, Crown Lands protect the sea turtles. In Quebec and New Brunswick, the national and provincial parks conserve these fragile turtles.

Threatened Turtles Of Canada

Threatened Turtle Species of CanadaScientific Name
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle
Lepidochelys kempii
Pacific Pond Turtle
Actinemys marmorata
Western Pond Turtle
Clemmys marmorata
Eastern Box Turtle
Terrapene carolina
Leatherback Sea Turtle
Dermochelys coriacea
Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
Lepidochelys olivacea
Chinese Turtle
Chinemys reevesi
Spotted Turtle
Clemmys guttata
Blanding's Turtle
Green Sea Turtle
Emydoidea blandingii
Chelonia mydas
Wood Turtle
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Glyptemys insculpta
Caretta caretta

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