For the love of turtles

September 24, 2014   ·   0 Comments

On our last stretch to a twoyear biological survey in Tiny Marsh, our rewards have escalated. On June 22nd while awaiting a group from Ontario Nature, a couple of members strolled through the grass looking for early morning dragonflies where they came across an injured snapping turtle. It had been hit by a car and its carapace was injured. Had made it to the long grass where it halted in pain and bleeding. We got to work immediately, got a big bin and called Karwartha Turtle Trauma Center to set up a turtle taxi to transport this injured turtle. Upon arrival at the hospital her wounds were flushed, she was given pain meds and a shot of antibiotics. It also took hours of picking out fly eggs from her wounds with tweezers. They were so embedded that the flushing was not enough to remove them. Stabilized, cleaned and monitored, its wounds were bandaged, cleaned and changed daily. It was x-rayed and found to have 19 eggs inside it. Just what we thought, a female heading to lay those precious eggs. Almost another casualty if we hadn’t found her. They encouraged her to lay those eggs when she was stable enough by placing her in a sandy substrate. Then induced her to lay the rest. After two months of daily care she was ready to come home. August 29th she was released back to her wetland. A very special lady. CTV news was there and the Tiny Marsh Team. We put her down for some photographs and she turned around and headed right for the wetland she came from. How would she know. Incredible. She was picked up and carried to her destination. She disappeared into the water. She was home.
Her 19 eggs still remain at the hospital awaiting their arrival in an incubator; will also come home to the marsh all goes well seven of our eight turtle species in Ontario are listed on the Species at Risk list of various degrees, and because of that.
This year we have focused on turtles. Caging nests and marking them, documenting and now monitoring for hatchlings. A lot of man hours have gone into this project, and now, a lot of rewards as those babies are now hatching. The feelings of success as you remove a baby from a nest that has not made it out for whatever reason; and another, and another, sit them in the sun thinking they are dead. And watch as the little head starts to move back and forth, and the body comes alive as it heats up. There are no words. But the looks on our faces tell it all. All that hard work. All those hours of monitoring momma’s laying eggs in the spring and covering those nests with cages, numbering documenting. Walking those dykes day after day in all weather. And now it is fall watching for the hatchlings to arrive. Ask any of us if it was worth it. The smile will tell you.
Way to go Tiny Marsh Team. We all did a bang up job. And thank you Karwartha Turtle Trauma Center for all the work you guys do. Couldn’t do it without you. 1 705 741 5000 and Kids for Turtles who made our signs for the cages to help educate people along the trails. Of course there will still be predation. But after all, this is how it works in the wildlife world. “One dies for one to live”. Through these efforts of many who do what we are doing. There will be more stable numbers of female turtles to keep the species going. After all, they will not be ready to lay eggs until they are 15 to 20 years old. A long time to survive the world of crossing roads and dodging predators before another generation can be born. One amazing little species indeed.

By Jennifer Howard



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