Spiny softshell (Photo by Ryan M. Bolton)
Spiny softshell turtle
Each spring, using shovels and rakes, volunteers get to work cleaning part of the shores of the Pike River — a tributary of the Missisquoi Bay at Champlain Lake. They're working to clear nesting sites in the bare sand highly coveted by female spiny softshell turtles. Since the turtles venture onto beaches in early June, the group must work swiftly to create attractive and safe spawning sites — five-star hotels for turtles.
Identification and conservation status
With its flat, soft shell and long thin nose, this species often attracts public curiosity. However, it is actually a shy and nervous creature, and is highly vulnerable. In fact, the spiny softshell turtles is officially listed as threatened in Quebec.
Predation, changing shorelines and recreational activities all threaten its survival. The turtle's vulnerability is further increased since its sexual maturity is only reached at the late age of 12.
Since spiny softshell turtles tend to return to the same nesting and hibernation sites year after year. It is therefore even more crucial to preserve their rare habitat.
What is NCC doing to help protect this species?
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is actively involved in a number of initiatives to protect the spiny softshell turtle, including habitat protection, stewardship and restoration of protected areas in and around Champlain Lake.
NCC is also a member of the Spiny Softshell Recovery Team, and coordinates volunteers from the group SOS Turtles, which is involved in the cleanup of spawning sites, nest monitoring and eggshell collection in the fall (this information is used to survey the number of turtles born at each nest site). These activities are funded through a spiny softshell turtle endowment fund and the Fondation Hydro-Québec pour l'environnement. Since 2009, NCC and its partners have also participated in an artificial incubation program in which eggs are collected on-site and hatchlings are released into the wild to increase hatching rates.
Since 2009, NCC and its partners have collaborated in an artificial incubation program in which eggs are collected on-site and hatchlings are released into the wild to increase hatching rates.
NCC also conducts a wide range of educational and outreach activities to spread the word about this shy, long-nosed turtle. This is an excellent opportunity for NCC to educate a broader audience about the importance of habitat protection for the spiny softshell turtle.