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Promoting Public Awareness Of Wildlife Habitats Through Environmental Education

Turtle Nest Protection Project Update

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Written by: Sandy Agnew, V-Chair, KFTEE

Seven of the eight native turtle species are now on the Ontario Species At Risk list. Perhaps the greatest threat to all Ontario native turtle species is predation of turtle eggs before they hatch, often within hours of being laid.

Back in the spring, Kids For Turtles (KFT) submitted three applications for funding to hire summer staff to coordinate a project to build cages to protect new turtle nests from predation, seek volunteers to identify nest sites, install the cages and monitor the nests until they hatch. Creating new nest sites was also a component of the project. The projects were designed to build on similar work that was done by the Couchiching Conservancy (CC) on their properties in 2011.

Not having heard about the applications before the turtles started nesting, KFT decided to do as much of the project this year as we could with only volunteers. So, in cooperation with CC, we began to seek volunteers. The CC group was led by Cathie Breckenridge and Matt Thomson. Sandy Agnew headed the KFT effort.

This has very much been an evolving project. The project was intended to run parallel efforts, one mainly on CC properties and one on private properties through KFT. Both groups worked on designing cages and sharing information as we went along. We held a cage distribution on May 14th at KFT office. Several cage designs have been used with a variety of tie down devices. The main change in the new design is that the hole size of the wire mesh is large enough to allow turtle hatchlings to exit the cage without assistance.

On the KFT’s list we have a total of 16 volunteers, most of whom took cages to use either on their own property or on property they had access to. With reports back from 6 private properties to date we have 10 nests protected. The CC group were able to secure over 40 nests.

Monitoring the nests will continue until they have hatched. Later this year we will compile a complete report on the work of the project. Thanks to everyone who has participated so far. Special thanks goes to the Midland Penetanguishene Field Naturalist club for their generous donation to KFT.

Recently we have heard that none of the applications were successful so it is back to the drawing board for funding. Nonetheless, we hope to expand the project for next year, even if it is with volunteers only.