Putting the brakes on turtle loss

May 11, 2022
Rebecca Kolarich

Ontario is home to eight species of freshwater turtles, all of which are listed as at-risk. Turtles have lost over 70% of the wetlands they call home in southern Ontario due to commercial development. Turtles being killed on our roads, which often slice through their remaining habitat, is another leading threat to ever-declining turtle populations (see below for more details).

Working with data from the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC), we identified the top six towns with the greatest number of road casualties for freshwater turtles in the province. Click here to explore.

Six towns in Ontario with the deadliest roads for turtles

What you can do to help us stop needless turtle deaths.

Earthroots needs your help to convince municipalities to install wildlife underpasses along high-risk roads to reduce turtle mortality. Turtle crossing signs are not enough. Turtles have dark shells and are hard to see on dark pavement. Without proper underpasses, turtles will continue to be hit and killed by speeding vehicles.

Send this letter to the Mayors listed below:

Dear Mayor/Reeve (name)  

I am writing to inform you that your town has one of the highest turtle mortality rates in Ontario and request that you act to stop these avoidable deaths.  

All eight species of freshwater turtles in Ontario are listed as at-risk. Road mortality is one of the leading causes of turtle population decline in the province. Your town has been identified by data from the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC) as one of the six highest risk areas for turtles in Ontario.  

As a result, I request that you install wildlife underpasses during the next road upgrade. To learn more about the specific location that needs attention, please contact Rebecca Kolarich, Earthroots' Protected Spaces Specialist, at  

Turtles in your community, who are listed as at-risk species, need your help. Please improve the safe passage of turtles across roads and give our incredible turtles the chance to recover.

Thank you for your time,


Send to:  

Mayor of Scugog: Bobbie Drew,

Reeve of Kaladar: Henry Hogg,

Mayor of Port Severn (Georgian Bay): Peter Koetsier,

Mayor of Gravenhurst: Paul Kelly,

Mayor of Apsley (North Kawartha): Carolyn Amyotte,

Mayor of Peterborough: Diane Therrien,

The gruesome details of turtle accidents and deaths on Ontario roads  

Road mortality is one of the leading causes of turtle population declines. Roads pose a double threat to our turtles:

  • They are generally built through wetland complexes, forcing turtles to cross busy routes to feed and nest.  
  • Turtles like to nest in soft warm sands and gravel, not all that different from the shoulders of roads. This illusion of a prime nesting location alongside roads brings female turtles and their hatchlings in proximity of cars, further increasing hit likelihood.
Top 20 towns with the most roadway turtle casualties in Ontario

Working with data from the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC), we identified the top 20 towns with the most roadway turtle casualties, including the six areas with the deadliest roads for freshwater turtles in the province.

Earthroots is calling on these municipalities to mitigate turtle road mortality with the installation of wildlife underpasses along high-risk roads. We will be working with municipal councils to bring light to this issue and request the installation of wildlife underpasses in each of the highlighted areas in the map above. You can help us by sending letters to Municipal leaders (see above.)

About the data

This table is based on turtle road casualty data from the OTCC from 2015 to 2021 which was collected from volunteers and OTCC staff members engaged in helping injured turtles on Ontario roads. As a result, the number of turtle road casualties recorded in a specific location is affected by the availability and interest of local volunteers as well as any local road conditions hazardous to turtles.

Do underpasses work? A case study

The Haliburton Highlands: turtle road mortality mitigation project

In 2016, The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust completed their first turtle road mortality mitigation project. The Land Trust selected sites where there had been many sightings (100+) of turtles along and/or adjacent to busy roadways and installed barrier walls along existing culverts for an approximate cost of $35,000. Results were positive, turtles were unable to access the roads and after two years of monitoring, 60+ turtles were documented making successful passages.

Based on these results it has been concluded that the barrier wall, together with the culvert underpass, is a successful, cost-effective mitigation technique for reducing turtle road mortality.

The Haliburton Highlands barrier wall and culvert underpass design (Heaven et al. – Road mortality mitigation for turtles)

Additional facts about Ontario’s freshwater turtles:

  • Turtles are integral to healthy wetlands.
  • Turtles can take up to 25 years to lay their first batch of eggs so losing even one female can be detrimental to fragile populations.  
  • Improving the safe passage of turtles across roads greatly enhances the odds of turtles laying their first batch of eggs.

Thanks to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre.

Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, home of Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre, is a registered charity whose goal is to protect and conserve Ontario’s native turtles and the habitat in which they live. To learn more visit

If you see an injured turtle anywhere in Ontario, please call 705-741-5000.

Photo by Courtney Celley on Flickr

Become an Earthroots Supporter

As a non-profit organization, we rely solely on donations from supporters to keep us going. If you're able to, please consider making a donation for a better tomorrow.

Donate Now