Turtle Release Event

Turtle release event returns for fourth year
You are invited to observe release, into wild, of turtle hatchlings on August 29 at Morrison Lake near Exeter; Turtle eggs were recovered, incubated

A new generation of turtle hatchlings returns to the wild at the Fourth Annual Turtle Hatchling Release east of Exeter. This turtle education event, for all ages, attracted hundreds of people last year.

The 2019 event takes place at Morrison Dam Conservation Area, at 71108 Morrison Line, south of Highway 83, on Thursday, August 29 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The event is free to attend.

Event proceeds support conservation of Ontario’s turtles. Organizers encourage attendees to donate to Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC). The turtle release event has raised thousands of dollars, over three years, in “much-needed funds” for Ontario’s largest turtle hospital. 

The Huron Stewardship Council (HSC) supervises release of native hatchling turtles at the turtle release event on August 29. Participants can join staff to observe, as turtles are released, and to take pictures. Turtles are released every half hour from 1:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Cristen Watt is Species at Risk Technician with Huron Stewardship Council. “It is incredible to see such strong public interest in turtles and their conservation,” she said. “Unfortunately, Ontario’s turtle populations are declining, so this event raises awareness about local species-at-risk, and teaches everyone about the many ways they can help.” 

The turtle release event gives people of all ages a chance to meet local wildlife up close and to learn about local reptiles. Event plans include reptile displays, reptile-themed merchandise, and fun and active learning stations. Staff from Scales Nature Park, of the Oro-Medonte area, are bringing reptile species. (Their turtles can be viewed and their snakes can be handled.) The HSC will have outreach activities and merchandise, the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation will bring an outreach display, and Ausable Bayfield Conservation will have a geocaching station and other education and outreach. Pinery Provincial Park will have two naturalists at their outreach booth and turtles will be the theme of the Storytime Trail along the MacNaughton-Morrison Section of the South Huron Trail. There will also be cupcake sales in support of turtle conservation.

The turtle release event is one way people can learn of the threats Ontario’s native freshwater turtles face. Road mortality (death by cars and other vehicles) and habitat loss are just some of the threats faced. Thousands of turtles in Ontario are hit by cars each year. In spring, most of those turtles are pregnant females looking for a place to lay eggs. In summertime and autumn, most are males looking for new ponds and mates.

Turtles to be released at the release event may include Painted Turtles and Snapping Turtles. (Organizers remind people never to place invasive non-native turtle species – such as the Red-eared Slider – into local water bodies).

All the turtles at the release are hatched from eggs laid in locations at Morrison Dam Conservation Area that were unlikely to allow the eggs or hatchlings to survive on their own. Staff of the HSC collected the eggs in June and incubated them to save the turtle hatchlings.

The turtle is a vital part of the local ecosystem, according to Hope Brock, Healthy Watersheds Technician with Ausable Bayfield Conservation. Diverse animal species each play a role to keep that system healthy. “Turtles help to control aquatic vegetation,” she said. “They help to clean our creeks and wetlands by eating algae and dead and decaying fish and other organisms.”

Parking at the turtle release event will be available in the spillway, as well as on the south side of Morrison Lake (Morrison Dam Reservoir) and at the Woodland Reflection Shelter on the west side of Morrison Line (across from the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Administration Centre).

People can help turtles by creating nesting habitat on their properties, stopping to help turtles cross the road and working with their local municipalities and communities to erect turtle crossing sings and build eco-passages.

“Always help turtles cross the road in the direction they are heading,” said Brock. People can also stop for injured turtles and help arrange their transport to the turtle hospital. 

To learn more about protecting turtles, and the release event, visit abca.ca and hsc.huronstewardship.ca or phone 519-235-2610 or toll-free 1-888-286-2610.

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