Save turtles, one photo at a time
PHOTO COURTESY NATURE CONSERVANCY OF CANADA/SIMON PELLETIER
This Blanding’s turtle is one of five species in the province designated as threatened or vulnerable. You can help protect all turtles across the province by documenting their presence – dead or alive – and sharing the information on carapace.ca.
Nature Conservancy of Canada is asking you to report any turtles you encounter on the roads
Despite the upheaval in our daily lives, this spring is much like any other for turtles. World Turtle Day was May 23 and it’s a good time to observe turtles on Quebec's roads while complying with the government's travel guidelines in the context of COVID-19.
The carapace.ca website was launched in the Outaouais region in 2016 and throughout Quebec the following year. Data gathered from the website helps conservation groups and government agencies identify areas where turtle road fatalities are high, with the help of drivers who spot these reptiles.
Five turtle species found in the province are designated as threatened or vulnerable under the Government of Quebec’s Act Respecting Threatened or Vulnerable Species (ARTVS): wood turtle, map turtle, spiny softshell turtle, Blanding’s turtle and eastern musk turtle.
During their active season, from May to October, turtles move for a variety of reasons – to look for food, change habitats, find a partner to mate, or lay eggs. When crossing roads or leaving waterways for sandy, warm places along sides of the road, they are very vulnerable to vehicle collisions. Around 10 per cent of the observations on carapace.ca have been reports of dead or injured turtles.
To participate, people can simply take a picture of the turtle (alive, injured or dead), note its location and complete a short reporting form at carapace.ca.
By sharing this data with its turtle recovery partners, the non-profit Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is helping plan conservation measures to reduce turtle deaths and protect vulnerable species.
Citizen participation and science
The carapace.ca website is well used. To date, more than 2,500 people have reported over 4,200 turtle sightings and identified 70 dangerous road sections across Quebec.
“Carapace.ca involves more than 100 partners across Quebec who help mobilize residents in their respective areas to increase the number of turtle observations on the roads year after year,” said Caroline Gagné, program director for Western Québec NCC. “Thanks to this citizen participation, we have identified stretches with a risk of collision for turtles. We have to keep up these efforts in order to help implement conservation actions.”
The contributions of these budding biologists have been invaluable. Quebec residents have played an essential role in this project because, without them, it would be impossible for NCC to identify the accident hot spots and collect sufficient data.
Carapace.ca by the numbers
4,218 turtle observations
404 reports of dead or injured turtles
70 road fatality hot spots identified, including: 33 in the Outaouais, 13 in the Laurentians, and 12 in Montérégie.
Full instructions are available at carapace.ca.