Conservation of Reptiles and Amphibians in Norfolk County. Scott D. Gillingwater Species At Risk Biologist Upper Thames River Conservation Authority

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1 Conservation of Reptiles and Amphibians in Norfolk County Scott D. Gillingwater Species At Risk Biologist Upper Thames River Conservation Authority

2 In Ontario, 7 of 8 types of turtle, 11 of 18 types of snake, our only lizard and 1/3 of all our amphibians are listed as at risk. Most of these species occur in Norfolk County

3 A problem is apparent

4 Meet and Greet Some of My Clients

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6 Scott Gillingwater

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14 THREATENED! Spotted Turtle Spiny Softshell EndangerED!

15 Snapping Turtle Blanding s Turtle Special Concern THREATENED E. Musk Turtle THREATENED N. Map Turtle Special Concern

16 E.Hog-nosed Snake Milksnake THREATENED E.Foxsnake SPECIAL CONCERN Queensnake ENDANGERED ENDANGERED

17 Fowler s Toad ENDANGERED Jefferson Salamander ENDANGERED

18 Why are turtles so at risk? Low reproductive success: very few, perhaps 1%, survive from egg to adult. Late age of maturity: it can take up to 18 years for a female to begin laying eggs. Long lifespan: turtles have a very LOW natural death rate (only 1% per year) so even a small increase in the number of adults taken out of a population unnaturally has a significant negative impact. =1%

19 Reasons for the gradual loss of our turtles and snakes: London Southern Ontario is one the most heavily populated areas in all of Canada. It is also the area of greatest biodiversity in Canada. Reptiles are forced to compete against development and the increasing human population in Southern Ontario. The resulting threats include

20 Limiting Factors Habitat Loss/ Degradation Road Mortality Improper Agricultural Practices Pollution (Direct and Indirect) Persecution Predation Collection

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24 Road Mortality

25 Long Point Causeway Improvement Project

26 Lake Erie Long Point Bay Big Creek National Wildlife Area

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28 Solutions are Difficult Development will not end Subsidized predators adapt easily to new challenges The human population in southern Ontario continues to grow Out of sight, out of mind not enough education or funding opportunities exist

29 Rare Reptile Research and Education Program in Southwestern Ontario Since 1994, a long-term reptile research and recovery initiative has been active in southwestern Ontario Initial surveys for the spiny softshell turtle later evolved into long-term research and education efforts directed at a number of reptile species Targeted areas have included a number of river and lake sites in southwestern Ontario

30 SCIENCE The collection of long-term data has been a key component, necessary for the effective recovery of species and habitat in this region. Detailed surveys and research programs have been initiated on a number of species within lake, marsh and river habitats.

31 Radio Telemetry Useful for: -Seasonal movements -Home range -Behaviour -Habitat selection and use -Susceptibility to local threats -Urban and rural ecology

32 Mark-recapture Studies Provide base data on populations Population monitored over the long-term Habitat use data collected File notches into hardshelled turtle species, and PIT tag soft-shelled turtle and snake species Both marking techniques provide some degree of protection from poaching

33 Surveys Revisiting historic sites Investigating recent public sightings Exploring potential new sites

34 Putting Knowledge Gained To Good Use Habitat Identification Habitat Creation (ie. turtle nest sites, snake hibernacula) Nest Protection Input Into Recovery Documents linking single species recovery strategies with multi-species initiatives Influence Planning Decisions Increased Enforcement

35 What s being done? Spiny Softshell Turtle Example: Enhancing and maintaining natural nest sites. Creating artificial nest sites. Protecting nests from predators (raccoons, skunks, foxes, etc).

36 What s being done? Results: Greater hatching success! Spiny softshell turtle eggs. Eggs hatch in 60 to 90 days.

37 Results Located and studied the largest populations of Blanding s, Softshell and Spotted Turtles in Canada Have influenced recovery actions, as well as federal and provincial legislation Planning decisions now include SAR reptile needs in the many areas where they exist

38 Education Community Awareness Landowner Education and Support Multi-group Involvement Evolving Education Programs Media participation

39 Fact Sheets

40 Public Involvement -Public reporting -Volunteerism when and where appropriate -Help inspire and support local champions -Assist interested landowners with making informed decisions for their properties -Support appropriate best management practices for agricultural lands -Work with the City/Municipality in planning decisions

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43 SPINY SOFTSHELL TURTLE STEWARDSHIP GUIDE Incorporates landowners and land users into SAR recovery Allows community involvement to sustain recovery work Provides a strong link to community members Generates interest in otherwise overlooked species Assists the recovery team in achieving recovery objectives

44 Community Group and School Visits Interactive native reptile presentations with high quality visuals and hands-on learning sessions training and environmental outreach, to build awareness and pride of Ontario s unique natural heritage

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46 Results Since 1994 the program has reached over 70,000 people directly through talks, displays and other initiatives (Middlesex, Norfolk, Lambton, Elgin, Oxford, Essex, Chatham-Kent). Many more through local and national radio, television, Discovery Channel, magazines, newspapers, newsletters... Reptile education programs were developed to fit the current curriculum needs New sites and populations have been identified by community members

47 Long Point Basin Land Trust Conserving Carolinian Reptiles Project Gregor Beck Update The project comprises three main areas: surveys and atlassing; outreach and education; and, reptile habitat creation and monitoring. Tangible outcomes include: Over 150 people have participated in reptile atlassing over two seasons from across Norfolk, Haldimand and Elgin Counties Over 1,000 records have been contributed to the reptile reporting program Extensive inland and roads-based surveys completed, including data from professional surveys and partner groups 25 on-the-ground habitats have been created in Norfolk County, including hibernacula, snake nesting, and turtle nesting sites and related habitat improvements.

48 6. Develop and promote best management practices (BMPs) for land owners and municipal planners The Future 1. Conduct surveys of known populations to determine spatial extent and quality of available habitat 2. Assess the significance of specific threats facing populations 3. Conduct intensive demographic studies at selected sites across each species range to determine key life history requirements 4. Determine habitat use of juveniles and adults (e.g. nesting, foraging, and hibernation sites) 5. Encourage the permanent marking of all handled turtles so that illegally collected turtles can be identified when confiscated

49 Invasive Plant Succession Large increases in non-native phragmites and European frogbit are invading marsh habitats Information on phragmites stand size and location adjacent to known SAR turtle habitat will need to be collected Continue to investigate control measures

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59 The Habitat Stewardship Program for Species At Risk, Provincial Species At Risk Stewardship Fund and the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority help make this program successful through financial and in-kind support.

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