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Ontario has 8 native species of turtles 

and they can be found in several different habitats all over the province. While they can be hard to tell apart, there are key visual and habitual characteristics of each species that can help us identify them and protect their habitat. 

Northern Map Turtle


The northern map turtle is one of the most populous species in southern Ontario, and can be identified by the maplike patterns on its shell, and bright yellow lines on its heads and legs. Females are much larger than males, and can grow up to 27 centimeters long, whereas males reach a maximum of 13 centimeters. Its feet are fully webbed, allowing it to maneuver quickly in water. Northern map turtles generally inhibit large lakes and rivers, and require high quality water to support the female's mollusc prey. The diet of the species is comprised of mollusc creatures such as snails and clams eaten by the females, and insects and crayfish eaten by males and juveniles. 



Females may take more than 10 years to reach maturity, upon which time they begin breeding. They nest from June through July, and hatching occurs 60-75 days after eggs are laid. One clutch of up to 17 eggs will be laid, and the incubation temperature of the eggs will determine the gender of the hatchlings. Common predators of nests include raccoons, skunks, foxes, river otters, gulls, crows grackles and blackbirds. 



Northern map turtles are cold blooded, and need to spend great amounts of time sunning themselves to warm their bodies. In fact, they are commonly found basking on rocks, logs, or any other surface with significant sunlight exposure. They a very social species, and are known for their communal basking, where many individuals can be seen piled on top of each other, as seen in the photo on the left, taken on the south basin of Buck Lake. The home range size varies from 70 hectares for females, and 30 hectares for males, and in these areas the turtles will hibernate, bask, nest and feed. At night, adult turtles rest on submerged logs in deep water to avoid predators. During the winter, they will hibernate in the deepest water available. 


Some of the largest threats to northern map turtles are water pollution, which jeopardizes the mullusc population, and loss of habitat. Overdevelopment of shorelines can lead to the destruction of good basking locations, as well as suitable locations for nesting. Also, adult females are highly susceptible to traffic moralities when they travel to find nesting locations. Raccoons will also predate upon adults, as will opossums and coyotes. 


Blanding's Turtle


The Blanding's turtle, named for the doctor who originally discovered the species, can be found in isolated populations in southern Ontario. Often referred to as "the wanderers", Blanding's turtles make the largest overland movement of any Ontario turtles, traveling up to several kilometers between summer and winter habitats. They can be identified by their characteristic bright yellow chin and throat, and domed grey shell. Adults can grow between 12.5 - 28 centimeters in length, and a turtle can live up to 75 years! Blanding's turtles primarily forage during the day, eating crayfish, frogs, insects, fish and a variety of plants. Unlike other aquatic species, they eat both in water and on land. 


Female Blanding's turtles do not mature for at least 14 years, and nests are dug between late May and July. Optimal locations have lots of sun exposure and good drainage, and a single clutch can contain up to 22 eggs. There is still much to be learned about Blanding's turtle nesting, as in some locations they've been observed to opt for flat limestone rock over more accessible sand dunes.  





Basking is an important part of the Blanding's turtle's daily life, and it likes to do so on muskrat houses, logs, driftwood, and stumps. They like to live in shallow lakes, ponds, and wetlands with clean water and dense aquatic vegetation. Unlike other species such as the nothern map or painted turtles, the Blanding's turtles are not particularly social, and will often be very hard to find in the wild. The turtles 


The population of Blanding's turtles throughout North America has been rapidly declining over the last few decades, and main cause of this is the alteration or destruction of their wetland habitat. Another concern is that this is one of several threatened native species that people remove illegally from the wild for pets. 


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