Land Trust Turtle Project Shows Early Success

How do turtles cross the road?  At the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust’s study site on Gelert Road, they swim under it through the culvert.

In October 2014, as part of a three-year study on turtle road mortality mitigation, the Land Trust erected a barrier wall on both sides of an existing culvert on Gelert Road.  The ends of the wall were turned in towards the wetland to drift fence 1prevent turtles from crossing the road and provide an opportunity for the turtles to use the culvert as an underpass.

Though it is early in the season, the Land Trust has already documented a number of turtles walking along the barrier wall to the end pieces.  At those ends, rather than going around the barrier wall the turtles have turned back into the wetland as predicted. 

Many turtles have also been observed travelling through the culvert at varying speeds and styles.  They are able to use the culvert in both directions, moving with the current and against it.  Large turtles are taking only minutes to swim through the culvert.  Smaller turtles can take up to 20 minutes and some appear to be moving sideways using the side walls of the culvert to push themselves through the passage.  In all cases the turtles have been able to safely move from the wetland on one side of the road to the wetland on the other side.

Why this project is important

Turtle road mortality is the leading cause of population declines in turtles.  In Haliburton County, five of our six turtle species are at risk.  Our turtle populations are at real risk of extinction.

The aim of the project is to test a unique mitigation design for keeping turtles off the road while they travel from hibernation sites into feeding, mating and nesting sites.  As road networks expand, the natural landscape becomes fragmented and turtles are often forced to move up and onto road surfaces.  Soft road shoulders are attractive to adult female turtles as nesting sites.

The “Turtle Project” involves monitoring three sites for turtle activity – the test site and two control sites.  Our volunteer turtle monitors are working hard to document turtle activity on the road and in the adjacent wetlands to collect the data necessary to understand the effectiveness of the barrier wall.

The Land Trust has been conducting natural heritage research for the last eight years.  This research has helped us prioritize areas for conservation and education.  The Land Trust has identified a number of ecologically important wetland complexes in the County and houses an extensive database of species at risk observations.  That information has been crucial to our understanding of sensitive areas and led us to take action.

With the major loss of species and habitats to the south, Haliburton County provides an important reservoir of habitats.  But the County faces pressure from ongoing development and the expansion of our road networks.  This project seeks to find a balance between development and conservation.  Our unique barrier wall may provide another tool in preventing the loss of our turtle species and maintaining the integrity of our wetlands.

If you would like to play a part in this important research, please contact our office at or call 705-457-3700.  There are immediate openings for turtle monitors and other volunteer work.  Training is provided. For more information on the project, go to this page, or contact our office.

This project is generously funded by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Species at Risk Stewardship Fund.  The Land Trust also wishes to thank its partners and sponsors including Glenside Ecological Services Ltd., U-Links Centre for Community Research, Fowlers Construction, Armtech and Canadian Tire. The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust is a non-profit, non-governmental, registered environmental charity. Its mission is to protect the natural heritage of Haliburton County for future generations.

Earth Day Forum Results

Earth Day Header1

Forum for Environmental & Economic Development Leaders

presented in partnership by the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust 
and the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce


The results are in, and you can read all about them here:

Earth Day Forum Reports

Nature in the ‘Hood: Awesome Amphibians!

Join us this Saturday for an informative talk, and a walk through a marsh area to listen for amphibian activity! For more information, or to register, click here.

Turtle Monitor Training Apr 22nd

Another season of Turtle Monitoring is set to begin, and training for volunteers is scheduled for Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015. If you’d like to learn more about the Turtle Road Mortality project, and find out how you could help, please register to attend this free training session here.

Frogsicles and Cool Turtles

by Sheila Zimanfrozen turtle

While we ski over deep snow or curl up by the fireside, frogs and turtles are coping with winter through a number of survival strategies.

Terrestrial frogs normally hibernate on land. American Toads and other frogs that are good diggers burrow deep into the soil, safely below the frost line. Some frogs, such as the Wood Frog and the Spring Peeper are not adept at digging and instead seek out deep cracks and crevices in logs or rocks, or just dig down as far as they can in the leaf litter. Wood Frogs and Spring Peepers are able to freeze without sustaining damage.

Hibernating aquatic frogs such as the Leopard Frog and American Bullfrog usually hibernate underwater; however, they don’t dig into the mud like turtles. They must be near oxygen-rich water and spend a good portion of the winter just lying on top of the mud or only partially buried. They may even slowly swim around from time to time.

Blanding’s Turtles hibernate completely underwater from late October or early November until the early spring. This cold-blooded reptile only needs to burrow itself in cold, muddy bottoms to stay warm. Its metabolism also slows so little oxygen is needed and it doesn’t have to search for food. Unlike most turtles, the Blanding’s is quite happy in the cold water; on occasion it is seen slowly swimming underneath the ice in areas where they winter.

Snapping Turtles burrow in mud bottoms or use muskrat burrows or lodges to overwinter. Large congregations sometimes hibernate together.  Painted turtles share a similar hibernating pattern to other turtles, but if the weather is not conducive to leaving their nests, hatchlings will overwinter in their nests to emerge in the early spring.

Turtles will emerge from hibernation in late April or early May.  At this time they may cross roads in search of food and mates in connecting wetlands.  In June, females may cross roads to lay eggs on the road shoulders.  Five out of the six species of turtles in Haliburton County are at risk.  Turtle road mortality and loss of habitat are the primary reasons for population declines.  Please slow down while driving at this time.  If it is safe to do so and you choose to move the turtle across the road and out of harm’s way, move it in the direction it is travelling.

The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust, in collaboration with its partners, U-Links Centre for Community Research and Glenside Ecological Services, will continue their turtle project in 2015.  This research project has been generously funded by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.  Last fall, at a site on Gelert Road, the Land Trust erected a turtle barrier fence to funnel turtles towards an existing culvert.  The culvert will provide an underpass and allow turtles to access the adjoining wetland without traveling on the road surface.

This May and June, the Land Trust will be monitoring three sites for turtle activity – one test site with barrier fencing and two control sites.  If you would like to help with this exciting new research, please contact the Land Trust at or call 705-457-3700.


Annual Tree & Plant Sale

Wired_pine_seedlingnter woes? Think Spring! Start planning your spring garden now, and take advantage of bulk pricing available through the annual Spring Plant Sale. The Land Trust has partnered up with FEEL (Friends of Ecological and Environmental Learning) to bring you another instalment of this popular annual sale. Available for a limited time only – orders are due before April 1st – so head on over to to browse what’s available, and place your order!

Whether your goal is to plant a tree, protect your shoreline with native plants, or just to beautify your property with some hearty perennials, this is the place to start. Orders will be ready for pickup by the Victoria Day weekend, in Haliburton.

Not-For-Profit of the Year nomination!

nominationThe Haliburton Highlands Land Trust has been notified that we are one of the nominees for the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Not-for-profit of the Year award. Given the calibre of work being undertaken by non-profits in our community, the nomination alone is an achievement. We credit the incredible efforts of our many, many dedicated and hard-working volunteers. (you know who you are!) Take a bow, folks… This is the Land Trust that you have worked to create, build, and support.

March Events

bowling_1We have lots planned for March! TWO Nature in the ‘Hood events: “Maple Syrup in Your Backyard” and the “Reptile Road Show”. For more information, or to register for either of these, click here.

And don’t miss our first annual “Keep It Green St. Patrick’s Bowl-O’Thon“! Lots of fun, cheerful competition and prizes, too! Get your team together and come out for an afternoon or evening of family-friendly fun. Call Larry for more details, or to sign up a team. Phone (705) 457-3700 or email

Jan 24th: Signs in the Snow

tracksWe will meet at the Dahl Forest, where a member of the Minden Fur Harvesters will take us out for a hike and point out the various signs of animal activity in the winter forest. Bring your snowshoes and dress for the weather!


Leader: Paul Arkwright, Minden Fur Harvesters

Location: Dahl Forest, 1307 Geeza Rd., Gelert

Fee:  $5.00 / adult, children attend free with a paid adult.


Please register here: Event Registration


Nature in the ‘Hood programs are an invitation to people of all ages to come explore and enjoy the natural world around them in the Haliburton Highlands! We would like to acknowledge the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, the Gosling Foundation, and the Haliburton Highlands Stewardship Council for providing a portion of the funds to provide these programs.

Turtle Underpass Installation

drift fenceThe Haliburton Highlands Land Trust has completed phase II of The Turtle Road Mortality Project – installing the barrier fence.

Many thanks to the excellent volunteers who gave of their time – and muscles! – to get the fence in place. The area has since been re-seeded to help the natural vegetation grow in again for next spring.

The next two spring seasons will again see our intrepid volunteer Turtle Monitors out in the field,  monitoring at this site and two others, designated as “control” sites. The data collected during the next two turtle nesting seasons will help determine the effectiveness of this type of barrier fence at preventing turtles from being killed on our roads.

If you are interested in getting in on this project, and would like to volunteer some time next spring, just get in touch with us and we’ll put your name on our list! Get in touch with our office by phone at (705) 457-3700, or by email at You can also ask us to sign you up for our “Turtle Times” newsletter, a special edition e-newsletter that goes out to all of our turtle monitors and other folks interested in regular updates on the project.