From the shore, he may not have looked like much — maybe a rock, perhaps a log.
“They had seen the turtle out on the ice for a couple of days,” said Donnell Gasbarrini, turtle programs manager with the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre. “But they didn’t actually realize he was a turtle.”
In fact, it was a snapping turtle, and a large one.
Gasbarrini thought it may have crawled out of hibernation in late February when temperatures rose, and crawled out onto the ice on a Selwyn Township lake. But the shell on the turtle’s underbelly froze to the ice. Gasbarrini said it was found half submerged in the water.
“As I went out on the ice, I wasn’t quite sure what it would be like,” she said. “At first I touched his back leg to see if there would be any response, and he did move his back legs and tail a bit so I knew he was alive.”
The snapper was taken back to Peterborough’s Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre. It was diagnosed with an infection, and has garnered the nickname, “Chill.” Gasbarrini was optimistic he’d make a full recovery.
But despite the success of Chill’s rescue, the centre’s work is just beginning.
As spring arrives, more and more turtles will be on the move, putting them at risk.
“In the spring, like everyone, love is in the air,” said centre volunteer Julia Wallace. “They might be moving to try to find a mate, or maybe there isn’t enough food where they are, and they have to move to somewhere else.”
That’s when turtles are likely to come into contact with one of the biggest hazards they face — traffic.
According to the conservation centre, seven of Ontario’s eight turtle species are threatened.
Wallace recommends slowing down and watching out whenever you’re driving through turtle habitats. Those include roads with water on both sides and swampy or sandy areas.