Curious wood turtle (Photo by Ryan M. Bolton)
Popularity puts this reptile at risk
The wood turtle is listed as a species at risk both federally (threatened) and provincially (endangered). The wood turtle's range is restricted to wooded streams and rivers in northeastern North America. In Canada, it only occurs in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
This semi-aquatic turtle is long-lived (a 32-year-old specimen was recorded in the wild, and a 58-year-old in captivity). In Canada it can take 17 to 18 years before successful breeding can begin. This life history trait contributes to the turtle's at-risk status, since turtles may be collected or killed before reaching breeding age.
As with many species, habitat loss is another threat, and the wood turtle is also intolerant of water pollution. Current populations are small and increasingly isolated.
Retreating wood turtle (Photo by Bill Hubick)
Wood turtle fact
Wood turtles are known to stomp their feet on the ground, mimicking rainfall and drawing earthworms out for a meal.
Illegal pet trade impacts
Because the wood turtle isn't aggressive toward humans, and because of its intelligence, it is collected from the wild to be sold in the pet trade. The removal of wild animals from natural habitat has serious repercussions for populations, especially for at-risk species like the wood turtle.
What is NCC doing to help protect the wood turtle?
In Ontario, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is protecting habitat for wood turtles and minimizing disturbances, such as ATV use, that could kill adults or destroy nests. There are also ongoing efforts to create suitable nest sites where wood turtles are known to occur. In Quebec, NCC also protects wood turtle habitat and works on habitat restoration projects. Because of the illegal pet trade, NCC does not communicate the location of wood turtle populations it is protecting or managing.
Want to help?
Education is a key component in protecting this species. As more people learn about the effects of the illegal pet trade on all wild species, demand for these animals will decrease. Never collect turtles or other animal species from the wild. If purchasing animals from a pet store, unless the vendor can certify that any animal/plant for sale was not collected from the wild then they should not be purchased. If you happen to spot a turtle in Quebec, visit carapace.ca and fill out a turtle sighting form on the website.
Most importantly, your gift to NCC helps support wood turtle conservation.
Read more about the turtles of Ontario.