Last year Think Turtle Conservation Initiative Founder Kelly Wallace helped to release over 200 hatchlings, but this year that number sits at only six.

She attributes that to the long winter season, followed by a “very cool and unseasonable Spring.” Wallace explains that put things behind around three weeks, meaning mating and nesting season didn’t start on time. She points out that this also messes with the turtle’s “biological clock.” She points out that many animals – turtles included – do their best to adapt. “There were cases of turtles taking matters into their own hands so to speak,” she says. Wallace says she’s heard of turtles mating under the ice.

With the hot and dry summer last year, it caused the ground to be hard, which turtles like. “I watched several turtles who appeared to be nesting, but after I checked after they left they hadn’t nested,” Wallace says. Along with the late start, summer was cooler this year than it was last, which she believes has caused the downturn in hatchlings. Wallace also points to a turtle nest that’s where she lives. Two years ago, there were 46 hatchlings, another 36 came last year, but there were only six this year.

While not directly connected with the lack of hatchlings this year, Wallace says climate change is played a factor when it comes to the turtle population. “The sex of turtle embryos is determined by temperature,” she explains. Warmer temperatures produce more females while colder temperatures bring more males into the world. “The erratic weather patterns and global warming is already showing signs of endangering the future sex-balance with the prospect of a warmer world,” Wallace says. She says that in other parts of the world the turtle population is so skewed because of the weather that young turtles are almost entirely female.

Wallace notes that we may see hatchlings pop-up in the Spring due to “over-wintering.” She explains that “quite often” Painted Turtle hatchlings will stay in the nest cavity over the winter. Wallace says that may be what’s happening with them because she has yet to see a painted turtle hatchling. She adds it’s not uncommon for other turtles to do the same.

Wallace has taken hatchlings to the Turtle Conservation Centre in Peterborough as late as October 28th so the turtles aren’t “done-for” yet, but she says this will affect species recovery. “The turtles face so many challenges and yet again this is another one,” she says.

Written by Mathew Reisler