The wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) is a species that is designated vulnerable in Quebec. Primary threats towards its survival include habitat degradation and destruction, accidental death on roads, the destruction of its nests by predators and the capture of individuals for collection and commercial practices. Since 2014, Montréal Space for Life and the ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) have collaborated on a restoration plan for the species.
One of nature’s jewels
In Quebec, there are nine species of turtles, including eight freshwater species and one sea turtle. Among them is the beautiful wood turtle, so-called because the scutes on its brownish carapace form growth rings over the years. Relatively terrestrial and more omnivorous than the others, this turtle, which can measure 24 cm in length, bears hues of orange, yellow and black, making it a true jewel of nature! Inhabiting sinuous rivers and their surroundings, its limited and fragmented distribution renders it vulnerable to a multitude of threats associated with human activities. Fortunately, the wild turtles of Quebec are protected from hunting, capture, captivity and commerce, as described by the Act Respecting the Conservation and Development of Wildlife.
“Nothing grand is achieved without passion”(Hegel)
But since 2014, Montréal Space for Life and the MFFP have conjointly taken additional measures to protect the species. In order to increase the otherwise low survival rate experienced by this turtle in its first year, the MFFP collects eggs laid in nature and incubates them artificially inside its laboratories. Shortly after hatching, the minuscule babies are transferred to the Biodôme, where they are hand-reared and permitted to benefit from veterinary care, for one to two years; just long enough to attain a body weight of 260 g. Before their release close to their nesting sites, each individual is microchipped and some have wireless emitters attached to their carapace, such that the results of the efforts made can be evaluated.
Despite risks that the turtles could become imprinted on humans, that they may not recognize or escape their predators, or that they do not survive the harsh conditions of winter that they have yet to face, all indicators point to a high survival rate in the years following their release. According to Odile Colin, one of the Biodôme’s animal caretakers, who refined the care protocol for the young turtles, approximately sixty individuals have already been released into nature, and in September of 2019, the Biodôme can expect to receive a new group of 42 babies… there will be no rest for turtle lovers!
Would you like to participate in research projects involving our local herpetofauna? Learn about the conservation program run by the Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles of Quebec and share your observations!