Craig Bakay | May 15, 2019
May 23 is World Turtle Day. It was started in 2000 by American Turtle Rescue to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for, turtles and tortoises, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive, according to Wikipedia.
And last Thursday in Sunbury, Mabyn Armstrong of Turtles Kingston was there to do just that, as a guest speaker for the Dog Lake Association.
The first turtles emerged in the Permian Period, some 260 million years ago. While the fossil record is incomplete, it’s likely that the creatures we recognize today are relatively unchanged since the mid-Triassic, about 220 million years ago.
“The numbers are in decline,” Armstrong said. “They can’t do much about it so we have to mitigate things for them.”
Armstrong’s efforts are largely based in Kingston, but her message is equally applicable in all the Frontenacs.
“The City of Kingston is in a significant wetland,” she said. “There are five hot spots identified, including Princess Street near the Ambassador Motel.
“The worst is Collins Bay Road.”
Armstrong’s efforts include lobbying the City to pay attention to nesting sites, particularly along the side of roadways. She said road work can often destroy nests through grading and other maintenance.
“June is the peak nesting season,” she said.
One of the things she’s been actively engaged in is the creation of turtle nest protectors, a 2’X2’ screen that fits over a nest. It not only marks the location but reduces predation. The project is in conjunction with Lee Valley, who has held workshops on how to build the protectors yourself. The nest protectors are also available (at cost) at Lee Valley in the Riocan Centre.
Another initiative Turtles Kingston has undertaken is for injured and dying turtles. They work with Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre in Napanee (613-354-0264) and have arranged for veterinary clinics to be temporary holding stations if you can’t transport the turtle to Napanee yourself. A list of participating clinics is on the Turtles Kingston Facebook page.
It is also important to note, she said, that even if a female turtle is beyond saving, her eggs may be able to be extracted and incubated.
Also, they are compiling a database, so reporting injured turtles is important, she said.
Finally, Armstrong said they really discourage keeping turtles as pets.
“Snappers can live 150-200 years,” she said. “You may have to put that turtle in your will.”