SEEKING THE ELUSIVE BLANDING’S TURTLE

Deep in the wilds of Algonquin Park, a lone grad student stands:

turtle aerial

knee-deep in a bog, an electronic gizmo strapped to his waist, a TV antenna held up over his head. What’s he doing? Tracking turtles, of course!

Not just any turtles. No, Chris Edge is looking for Blanding’s turtles. They’re recognizable by their domed upper shell and bright yellow chin and throat.

Nobody knows exactly how many Blanding’s turtles are in Ontario, but dangers like road kill and the draining of wetlands have put this species in jeopardy.

turtle tagUnder the direction of Professor Ron Brooks of the University of Guelph, Chris is gathering information about Blanding’s turtle habitat, their movements and population.

This information will help provide insight into the turtle’s habitat needs and help with the species’ recovery in Ontario.

Chris has equipped 12 Blanding’s turtles with tiny transmitters, fastened to their shells. (You can see one on this turtle’s shell on the bottom right side of the picture.)

The battery-powered transmitters emit regular signals. When he approaches one of these transmitted-tagged turtles with the antenna, Chris hears a series of beeps through his headphones, from the receiver strapped to his waist.

That’s how he’s able to track where the turtles travel, and record the type of habitat and temperature ranges they prefer.

turtle researcher

One Blanding’s turtle travelled over 6 kilometres in less than a week!

Swish Canada (one of Ontario Parks’ corporate partners ) provided financial support for the Blanding’s turtle project.

It’s not the only initiative the cleaning products company is funding this year in Ontario Parks. Swish is also sponsoring research on the Western Painted Turtle at Quetico and on rare turtles at Queen Elizabeth II Provincial Park.

Company spokesman Ken Hilder says these projects play an important role in protecting our environment for future generations to enjoy and Swish is proud to support them.

Over the past seven years, Swish has sponsored research on:

  • shoreline bird habitat at Presqu’ile
  • Eastern Spiny Softshell turtles at Rondeau
  • Eastern Hognose snakes at Wasaga
  • Loons at Quetico
  • Massasauga rattlesnakes at Killbear

Swish has also helped with projects to study the ancient trees growing on the cliffs at Lion’s Head Provincial Nature Reserve, rebuild the cliff-top hiking trail at Bon Echo, and build a handicapped-accessible trail at Algonquin.

turtle signFor more information about Blanding’s turtles and other species at risk in Ontario, you can visit the Species At Risk website.