Guidelines for Landowners in Residential Areas

Landowner guidelines for improving habitat for the Western Painted Turtle in urban and rural areas

Get to know your turtles

  • Learn how to identify native Western Painted Turtle from introduced sliders (see ID Sheet)
  • Document species and numbers of turtles using your property
    • Document observations with photos when possible
    • If you have turtles on your property, note when turtles appear in the spring and when they disappear in the fall
    • What information is needed? The main information is date, location, your name or contactl, and photo of the turtle you saw; additional information such as the time of day or weather conditions are useful but not essential (link to datasheet)

Pond habitat enhancement

  • Manage shoreline and pond vegetation
    • Increase exposure of the pond to sunlight by trimming shoreline trees or shrubs
    • Encourage or plant native shore-line or aquatic plants
    • Add soil to increase productivity
    • Control in-growth of pond by vegetation
  • Maintain or improve water quality
    • Reduce or re-direct run-off
    • Reduce eutrophication
    • Maintain septic systems in good working order
  • Maintain or improve pond structure and accessibility to turtles
    • Increase deeper areas and clear vegetation from ponds that are in-grown with vegetation
    • Create shallow areas and make steep banks more gentle in portions of the pond
    • Maintain accessibility of turtles to nesting areas on land; where shoreline walls or other barriers exist, create gaps
  • Install turtle basking sites
    • Install basking platforms or logs in sunniest areas of the pond and anchor them into the bottom or shoreline vegetation
    • Slanted basking structures are encouraged as they allow the turtles to climb up entirely or completely out of the water
  • Minimize disturbance
    • Retain a portion of the shoreline inaccessible; avoid circling the entire perimeter with trails or manicured lawns/gardens
    • Place docks and viewing points in selected accessible areas of the shoreline

Nesting habitat enhancement

  • Maintain or enhance existing nesting areas
    • Identify nesting habitats on the property, so that disturbance from construction and yard maintenance activities can be avoided
    • Maintain open nature of the nesting area to ensure a good exposure to sunlight
    • Maintain sparse ground cover and open, non-vegetated patches; weeding may be necessary at an appropriate time - PS. after previous year's hatchlings have emerged but before females have started nesting in spring.
    • Monitor the effectiveness of the actions
  • Create new nesting habitat
    • Select an exposed, sunny and safe site close to water (but above flood level)and accessible to turtles; avoid sites where turtles have to cross a road
    • Clear the site from vegetation and bring in sandy substrates, as needed.
    • Construction can take place anytime but is best done shortly before the nesting season in spring
    • Maintain the site clear of weeds and disturbance - Monitor the use of the site by turtles
  • Protect nesting sites from disturbance
    • Place docks and other structures away from nesting areas and redirect paths
    • Fence nesting habitat or individual nests, if needed, but ensure that turtles can move freely under the fence
    • Manage pets and prevent them from digging and running in nesting areas

Monitor effectiveness of restored habitats

  • Document turtles using the restored basking sites or nesting areas
    • Record numbers of turtles or their sign seen at restored sites
    • Document your observations with photos when possible
  • Document condition of the restored habitat
    • Do the sites remain functional over time? - Was any action, such as weeding of the nesting areas, undertaken?

 

Mitigating road mortality

  • Discourage turtles from nesting in unsafe locations, such as busy parking sites or driveways
  • In some cases where turtles are nesting in unsafe sites such as roads, turtles can be discouraged from nesting there and new nesting habitat can be created nearby
  • Inform family, friends, and visitors of the possible presence of turtles on roads, especially during the nesting season in spring
  • Place turtle crossing signs where turtles are seen crossing roads