Michele St. Cyr
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by MVFN member Jill McCubbin
October 17, 2003
Sharing the Earth with 200 million year old creatures
Co-existence (between people and turtles) was the subject of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ discussion at their monthly indoor event held at the Almonte United Church Hall on this past Thursday (Oct. 16). It was an excellent, informative and entertaining evening that included a presentation from turtle expert, Michele St. Cyr, from Turtle S.H.E.L.L. Tortue. Members of all ages were in attendance, listening attentively, and asking questions.
The event began with a National Film Board film presentation on video: Creatures of the Sun: a natural history of the painted turtle. This film, shot in Quebec, is an exploration of pond life that focuses on the life cycle of the painted turtle. It has a conservationist perspective and super footage of turtles-from hatchlings and reproduction, to life span and habitat. The Almonte library does not currently have this video in its collection, but perhaps with a little pressure…
Michele St. Cyr and the organization Turtle S.H.E.L.L. Tortue (www.turtleshelltortue.org) began a turtle crossing sign crusade back in 1999. The turtle crossing signs aim to educate motorists about where & when to look out for turtles crossing the road. The signs are yellow and diamond-shaped with a black turtle motif in the centre. Arrows show the direction of the crossing turtles, and the months they’re on the move are marked on the signs as well. These signs have been adopted by municipalities through the Ottawa region and are effectively aiding in the protection of turtles. Mississippi Mills supports this program and has a few signs within the municipality. The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists hope to co-ordinate an increase in the number of these signs in our local area. There are many unmarked areas where turtles regularly cross roadways near wetlands, swamps, and ponds in our county.
Ontario has populations of more species of turtles than any other province or territory. (According to St. Cyr: Newfoundland and PEI have none!). One small step toward increased turtle survival: Please avoid insecticides and pesticides used in commercial and household gardens. These cause deformities in turtles. We are lucky here in Lanark to provide the habitat for these turtles: common map, Blandings, common musk, painted, spotted, snapping, and wood. We need to act responsibly to protect our Triassic cousins.
Visit the Field Naturalists’ website at www.mvfn.ca for more information about the club and about the exciting line-up of upcoming indoor and outdoor events. The next indoor event is Species at Risk on Thursday, November 20. Speaker: Michel G Vermette, from the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans, at the Almonte United Church, 7:30 PM.
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
August 24, 2002
Written by Cliff Bennett
Mississippi Mills Moves to Protect Turtles
At several noted locations along the roads of Mississippi Mills, turtles cross over with great regularity during the summer, in a migratory move to traditional feeding and nesting sites. Many don’t make it; they get run over by vehicles. In a move to save as many of these important wetland creatures as possible, Mississippi Mills Council recently passed a motion to approve the installation of turtle crossing signs at specific active locations throughout the municipality.
The initiative to encourage the crossing signs came from the organization Turtle S.H.E.L.L. and was supported by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN). The initials S.H.E.L.L. stand for safety, habitat, education and long life. The mission of Turtle S.H.E.L.L. is to protect our indigenous turtle species from extinction through education, habitat awareness and placing of road signs at migratory sites. Many signs are already in place in the Bancroft area and throughout Leeds Grenville and the organization is presently negotiating with the County of Lanark for signs along County Road 16. Turtle S.H.E.L.L. has published a booklet on turtles for use in schools entitled “Let’s Talk Turtles”.
The president of the group, Ottawa resident Michele St.Cyr, approached local officials with details and sign design in April of this year, after key locations were identified by MVFN. Signs are already in place on Clayton Road and will soon be installed on Cedar Hill Road and Bellamy Road. Locations indicate major turtle crossing areas within a km. of the signs.
Mississippi Mills Council is to be commended for taking this initiative to help protect this important wildlife species. The move shows the municipal leaders care about the environment and its natural creatures. Three species of turtles common in our area , the painted, snapping and Blandings will now be better able to maintain their numbers if motorists pay attention to the signs and help keep the mortality rate low.
What should you do if you come across a turtle on the road? Turtles cannot hear well and can only look forward. They sense danger through vibrations but are too slow in movement to get out of the way of fast moving vehicles. Some concerned people stop (in a safe manner) and carefully move the turtles off the road, in the direction they were heading. Snapping turtles though, are often too large and too dangerous to move by hand and should only be helped by inserting a shovel or similar rigid material under it to help it over the road. Turtle S.H.E.L.L. can be contacted by calling 613-446-4995 or by e-mail at