Conserving Endangered Reptiles

By: Inga Hinnerichsen / Gregor Beck

January 25, 2014, brought blizzard conditions
making road travel impossible or very hazardous at
best. The Reptiles At Risk Advanced Workshop
had to be postponed, although a handful of hardy
souls had braved the conditions to attend this

The rescheduled event was staged instead on
August 6th at the Backus Conservation Education
Centre, presented by Scales Nature Park in
partnership with Long Point Basin Land Trust
(LPBLT), Long Point Region Conservation
Authority (LPRCA) and Norfolk Field Naturalists

Roughly 50 reptile enthusiasts of all ages attended
the event. The presenters from Scales Nature Park,
Kelsey Crawford, Miranda Virtanen and Damien
Millen gave an outline on all Ontario reptiles and
their conservation status. At the end of the evening
the participants had the rare opportunity to acquaint
themselves hands-on with many live snakes and

Since 2008 the LPBLT has been conducting an in-
depth conservation, monitoring and outreach
program on reptiles in the central Carolinian

The following are excerpts from an update
compiled by Gregor Beck, LPBLT’s Director of
Conservation Science, for release to the media
earlier this summer:

“Over the last few years, hundreds of volunteers
and dozens of landowners have been reaching out
to help conserve the reptiles of the Carolinian
Region. Many of these conservation-minded
community members have been lending a hand by
participating in LPBLT’s Conserving Carolinian
Reptiles project. Its goals are protecting local turtle
and snake populations and engaging the public in
conservation actions. The project is critically
important since six of seven turtle species and half
of the dozen snake species in the area are listed
species at risk. By submitting reptile sightings,
volunteers are helping us learn more about these
ancient creatures, and helping us plan effective,
locally-tailored conservation solutions.”

Highlights of this project results include:

  • By the end of 2013, project participants had
    reported observations of over 4,400 turtles
    and snakes;
  • 427 instances of reptiles being protected
    from vehicle strikes, including protection for
    237 at-risk reptiles;
  • installation of 60 reptile habitat features,
    such as turtle nesting structures and
    savanna habitat restoration – many of which
    have been used by reptiles;
  • over 80% reduction in road mortality of
    reptiles at Long Point Provincial Park as a
    result of the installation of the seasonal
    wildlife barriers.

“The project’s success in helping turtles and snakes
is a testament to the hundreds of community
volunteers and landowners who believe in the
importance of protecting the diverse flora and fauna
of our region,” noted Beck. “The Land Trust thanks
these volunteers, partners, visitors and landowners
who help our native wildlife on a daily basis. This is
a great example of neighbours helping our wildlife
neighbours and species at risk!”

This project is undertaken with the financial support
of the Government of Canada through the federal
Department of the Environment, the John & Pat
McCutcheon Charitable Foundation, individuals and
partners. Assistance for this project was provided
by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
The Long Point Basin is home to 19 species of
reptiles, including 12 snake species and 7 turtle
species. The Long Point Basin includes Norfolk
County, western Haldimand County, eastern Elgin
County, and adjoining parts of Oxford and Brant
Counties. The area is in the heart of the
biologically-diverse Carolinian Region of Canada.

For more information about reptiles of the
Long Point Basin and Ontario, please visit
The Land Trust website contains numerous free
resources about conservation and reptiles,
including factsheets and videos.

Quick tips to help reptiles:

  • Drive carefully, watch for wildlife on roads. Slow
    down near woodlands and wetlands.
  • Be especially watchful in early summer when
    females seek nesting locations, and in early fall
    when young emerge.
  • Boat slowly near wetlands and in shallow water
    areas to avoid collisions with reptiles.
  • Protect and restore natural habitats, including
    hedgerows, buffer strips along streams,
    woodlands and wetlands.
  • Report suspected poaching of reptiles, or other
    illegal activities, to the OMNR TIPS line: 1-877-
    TIPS-MNR (1-877-847-7667)

Injured turtles, even with broken shell, can be
helped. Veterinarians in Jarvis and Burford will
treat them or send them to special facilities:
Toronto Wildlife Centre, Kawartha Turtle
Trauma Centre (in Peterboro) and Georgian
Bay Turtle Hospital (opening soon) For a listing
of authorized wildlife rehabilitation centres, visit: Search on: “wildlife rehab”.