Be an Ally to Turtles: How to Help Turtles in Ontario

Turtles in Ontario. Close up of a turtles face.

This blog discusses how to help turtles in the biosphere and how to move turtles off the road safely and what to do with an injured turtle. There are 8 different species of turtles in Ontario, and seven of them are species at risk. The biosphere plays host to many turtles including the Blandings, map, musk, and snapping turtle. There is also the invasive red-eared slider which can be seen in Ontario and unfortunately can outcompete native turtles, it is important that pet turtles are never released to the wild. Some of the information in this blog is from the Ontario turtle conservation center website: 

How to Help Turtles in Ontario Cross The Road

Turtles in Ontario. Turtle walking down a track for running in a concept of racing or getting to a goal no matter how long it takes.
  1. Always be sure of your own safety before stopping to help a turtle on the road. 
  2. If it is safe to do so, gently move the turtle in the direction they are going, if you turn them around they will most likely try to cross the road again after you leave. 
  3. Most turtles can be picked up carefully with two hands. But never pick up a turtle by the tail as you might damage its spine.
  4. Be careful when helping a snapping turtle cross the road – keep a safe distance from their head as they have a strong snap. Do not handle a snapping turtle unless you feel comfortable doing so. An uninjured snapper can also be coaxed across the road using a shovel, car mat, or a board. If you must pick up a snapping turtle by hand you should slide your dominant hand underneath them, from under the tail, as if you were picking up a tray of drinks. This should prevent the snapping turtle from biting or scratching you.  Make sure to hold them well away from your body or anyone else’s body. A snapping turtle can reach halfway down its sides so do not try to pick it up near its middle.
  5. Do not handle the turtle any more than is necessary to move it to safety. Once you have moved it across the road observe the turtle from a distance.
  6. Make sure to wash hands or use hand sanitizer after handling a turtle. Do not handle food until you have washed your hands thoroughly. 

How to Help an Injured Turtle

Turtles in Ontario. stethoscope and central asian land turtle on table blue background
  1. Carefully place the injured animal in a well-ventilated plastic container with a secure lid. Turtles can climb boxes, make sure there is no water.

Note: Carefully pick up most turtles with two hands. When handling snapping turtles, keep a safe distance from their head. They will snap at you if they feel threatened. You may want to use a plastic shovel or board to lift the turtle. 

  1. Note the location (road, major intersections, and km marking) of the turtle to ensure you can release it back to its habitat.
  2. Call the turtle conservation center at 705-741-5000. Even if you live outside of Peterborough, the turtle conservation center will be able to direct you to the appropriate location, while you organize the transfer to the main hospital.
  3. Do not offer the turtle water or food, and do not try to treat the turtle’s wounds in any way as their anatomy is very different from humans. The methods of treatment can be complex and are best left up to a trained veterinarian.
  4. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after handling the turtle.
  5. If you must keep a turtle overnight, keep it in a well-ventilated container and place it in a cool, dark place, away from pets or young children.

Turtle Helping Kit For Your Car

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