Science Lends a Helping Hand to the Wood Turtle at the Sutton River

The wood turtle is an endangered species. It is currently designated as threatened in Canada and vulnerable in Quebec. Habitat loss, road mortality and agricultural, forestry or quarrying operations are some of the threats to the species.

The wood turtle is the most terrestrial of the turtle species found in Quebec. It spends most of its summer on land, in forests, shrublands, wastelands and agricultural fields.

For many years, Appalachian Corridor, in collaboration with the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) and other regional stakeholders, has conducted studies and monitored wood turtles in various waterways in its territory of action that are known to harbor the species.

This year, the monitoring of the species will be conducted at the Sutton River. The most recent data on the population show a very significant decline in the number of individuals in this river. Increased mortality caused by human activities and the modification of the habitat of the Sutton River wood turtle are possibly the main factors explaining the major decline of this population.

From May to October 2021, biologists will be present approximately two days per week to document the population. Staff will scour the banks of the river in search of this terrestrial turtle.

But that’s not all. A telemetric study of wood turtles is also being conducted. This consists of real-time monitoring of the turtles by means of transmitters installed on their shells. This study will allow, among other things, to characterize the environments used by the turtles and to identify potential threats to their survival.

With the knowledge acquired during this study, experts in the field will be better equipped to propose concrete actions to protect and restore the Sutton River wood turtle population.

Photo: Appalachian Corridor