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How To Identify Ontario's 8 Turtle Species

Ontario is home to eight different species of turtles, making it the province with the highest number of turtle species in Canada. Unfortunately, seven of these species are currently at risk due to habitat loss, hunting, and poaching. Identifying these turtles is crucial to protect and conserve their habitats and ensure their survival for generations to come.

Blanding's TurtleBlanding's Turtle: With a bright yellow chin and throat, this turtle is easily identifiable. Unlike other aquatic turtles, they can be seen feeding on land. They also make the largest overland movement of any Ontario turtle to move from their summer nesting spots to overwintering habitat.

Eastern Musk TurtleEastern Musk Turtle: This small turtle has a brown upper shell with black flecking and a yellowish lower shell. Adult turtles have a light stripe above and below the eye on each side of the head. These nocturnal creatures are rarely seen swimming.

Painted TurtleMidland Painted Turtle & Western Painted Turtle: Painted turtles feature a distinctive black shell with dark red or orange markings. They can be easily spotted on the move, moving over large areas overland in search of nesting sites. These are the only non-threatened turtle species in Ontario.

Northern Map TurtleNorthern Map Turtle: Named for its markings, this turtle has contour lines on its upper shell that look like a topographical map. They also have a yellow spot behind their eyes, distinguishing them from snapping turtles.

Snapping Turtle

Vintage Hues Collection - Pure Muskoka
Vintage Hues Collection - Pure Muskoka

Snapping Turtle: The largest of all Ontario's native species, snapping turtles have a prehistoric appearance with triangular spikes along their tails. They are often observed walking on the bottom of small ponds and rivers or crossing roads.

Spiny Softshell TurtleSpiny Softshell: With a soft, leathery shell, the Spiny Softshell turtle is easily recognizable by its long snout. They are able to stay submerged for up to five hours by breathing through their skin in the water.

Spotted TurtleSpotted Turtle: This turtle has orange-yellow markings on its limbs, neck, and legs, and yellow spots on its shell. Females have orange eyes and a yellow chin, while males have dark eyes and a dark chin. They spend the summer in a state of inactivity to avoid hot and dry weather.

Wood TurtleWood Turtle: With a highly sculpted upper shell, this species is one of Ontario's most attractive turtles. Their neck, chin, and front legs are a vivid orange-yellow colour, and they are commonly found in woodlands or floodplains during the summer months.

By knowing how to identify these turtle species, we can better protect and conserve their habitats and ensure their survival. At Pure Muskoka, we're committed to preserving the natural beauty and unique species that call Muskoka home. By taking small steps such as helping turtles safely cross the road and sharing your sightings you too can make a difference and help protect Muskoka's turtles.

After all, at Pure Muskoka, "It's a feeling" that we're committed to preserving.

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