It’s been a good year for seeing Northern Map Turtles. They live in large, slow-moving rivers and lakes with a soft, mucky bottom and plenty of logs or rocks for basking, and while they are abundant in places like Petrie Island (before the floods, anyway) and the causeway at the Morris Island Conservation Area, I have rarely ever seen any close to home. This year, however, I found these turtles in three different places in Ottawa’s west end, fairly close to shore where they often find places to bask in the sun.
The Northern Map Turtle is considered to be a species at risk, as it is listed as Special Concern under both the Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007 and the Federal Species at Risk Act, as well as being designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. However, given the current political climate of favouring development over the protection of at-risk wildlife and the ecosystems in which they live, it is uncertain how long these laws and protections will remain in existence. Threats to the Northern Map Turtle include water pollution (due to its effect on molluscs, a primary food source), habitat loss and degradation, shoreline development, road mortality, fish hooks, and boat propellers. I’m not sure as to why I’m now seeing them along the shore of the Ottawa River within the city, or if that’s a good thing or bad thing – are they moving closer to shore because they have lost habitat elsewhere? Or are numbers doing so well that turtles are seeking new places to live? Fortunately, these turtles do not seem to hold much interest for poachers, as they are rarely used for food or the illegal pet trade.Continue reading