Last week, Teva told us all about her adventure looking for turtles with two Nature Conservancy of Canada scientists, Jenn and Tricia. Now that she is an experienced reptile searcher, Teva has put together her top ten tips for surviving a turtle adventure in the wetlands.
1. Shhhh! Turtle locations are top secret
The Nature Conservancy of Canada scientists and I drove out to visit a secret area where spotted turtles, along with a few other species, had been documented in 2005. These locations are top secret because the spotted turtle is globally at risk partially due to the threats they face from poachers who catch them to sell in the pet trade.
2. Learn to rock the latest wetland fashions
If you want to stay dry during your trip through the wetlands, you’ll have to wear something called a chest wader. This fashionable garment is sort of like a waterproof pair of overalls with rain boots attached. Although they will help you avoid getting a soaker, they definitely aren’t easy to walk in! My feet kept getting stuck in the muck, or twisted in the underwater grasses. But with a bit of practice I eventually got the hang of it.
3. Watch Your Step! Wetlands are hard to walk through
Wetlands are mucky with soggy grasses that hide underwater and dense rushes and thickets that are almost impossible to get through. You really have to watch where you step because the ground is so uneven. Any misstep and you might end up falling face first into a pile of mud!
4. Remember a few turtle searching tips
My Nature Conservancy of Canada guides gave me a bunch of advice for turtle spotting like staying alert for feeling something move under your foot. Stinkpots, a small turtle also called the common musk turtle, like to hide under lily pads so watch out for any movement under these plants.
5. For a turtle it’s all in the air
Jenn explained to me that since the air temperature was cooler than the water on the day we were out exploring, turtles were most likely hiding in the water; they certainly weren’t basking in the open. This is because reptiles are cold blooded and their body temperature is dependent on the temperature of the environment around them.
6. Prepare to meet lots of different animals
Wetlands are biodiversity havens! On our trip, we saw green frogs, osprey, countless darling little songbirds, small fish; we even heard the music of spring peepers calling across the wetland complex.
7. Keep an eye out for busy beavers
There was a lot of evidence of beaver activity on the property, which was changing the wetland, diverting water and draining sections that used to be submerged.
8. Look out for Invasive species
We saw big patches of phragmites, or the common reed, an invasive plant that towers above the wetland, and crowds out the native species. Phragmites grows so densely that turtles can’t make their way through, and can block transit between seasonal habitats. With the help of your Bring Back the Wild™ Campaigns, Nature Conservancy of Canada staff will be removing these plants, and hopefully, they’ll be able to stop them from coming back.
9. Don’t get discouraged, turtles are excellent hiders
Despite searching for turtles all day, it took us until the end of our trip to actually see one. This doesn’t mean there weren’t any turtles in the wetland; in fact, there were probably a lot watching us. Turtles are amazing hiders. They are well camouflaged and are very skilled at picking excellent hiding spots.
10. Wetlands are truly amazing
Wetlands are really fascinating places to explore and they provide a home for tons of animals. That’s why Earth Rangers and the Nature Conservancy of Canada are working together to protect wetlands and ensure that species like the spotted turtle will continue to have a place to call home. To find out how you can help protect turtles and raise awareness about important conservation work start a Bring Back the Wild™ Campaign to protect these reptiles.
The Spotted Turtle Project is generously supported by Ontario Power Generation.