An important wetland area exists within the boundaries of
Canada’s capital. Home to a variety of species at risk,
the wetland found within the Medeola Woods makes Ottawa unique
among world capitals. No other city in a temperate climate
possesses such a rich and diverse turtle community. Eight
species of turtles live in the Province of Ontario, and four
of these species—Snapping, Midland Painted, Northern
Map and Blanding’s turtles—occupy the wetland
that is becoming known as Ottawa’s Urban Turtle Sanctuary.
The success of this particular population results from a
combination of suitable nesting areas and a network of wetland
habitats. The wetlands are especially important because they
contain a pond and streams that do not freeze solid and are
essential for the winter survival of the turtles. Any change
to this winter habitat will result in the turtle population
being drastically reduced and perhaps eliminated.
The surrounding woods and upland meadows also support the
traditional annual migration routes of the Blandings Turtle,
a species that uses more of its landscape than do the more
aquatic Painted and Snapping turtles. Having a reproducing
population of Blanding's turtles within urban Ottawa is a
special heritage feature, but because individuals are not
often seen, so just how vulnerable this population may be
is currently unknown. Further fragmentation of its Ottawa
habitat could be disastrous.
The Northern Map turtle and Blanding’s turtle are both
listed on the Province
of Ontario’s Species at Risk list. The Blanding’s
turtle in particular is in decline in Ontario. Other populations
exist, but many are small and disconnected. The Ottawa Urban
Turtle Sanctuary—the home of the Blanding’s turtle
in the Nation’s Capital—is threatened by possible
development. Viable alternatives to this plan are available,
and should be seriously considered.
Information about the Ottawa Urban Turtle Sanctuary, the
species that make their home there, and efforts to preserve
this unique habitat will be posted on this site over the coming
weeks. Please visit this site regularly and often for updates.