When was the last time you crossed paths with a wild animal?
It might have been more recent than you think. Whether you spend the majority of your time indoors, on the road, or even working outside, wildlife is never far away.
Working in conservation, I am often sent photos or told stories from family, friends and colleagues, of plants and animals that they come across. Receiving these photos and hearing the stories are always a highlight of my day, and I am continuously amazed by what people find when they take the time to look.
The most recent photo sent to me was one of a turtle crossing the road. A family member just happened to come across it while driving, helped it to cross the road, and was curious about what species it was. Imagine my surprise when I opened the photo to see a Spotted Turtle!
These turtles are one of the most at risk freshwater turtle species in Canada, found only in Ontario, and are listed as an Endangered species. And the sighting came from an area with few records of this rare species, making the observation all the more important. I’ve spent the better part of my last two summers specifically looking for turtles and I’ve yet to see a Spotted Turtle in the wild.
It just goes to show you that you don’t have to be an expert, or have any sort of past experience, to go out and find really cool things in the wild. It’s never too late to start exploring what’s around you! There has never been a better time than now to get outside and learn to love the natural world. So check out your nearest field naturalist club, there are always fun events going on that you can take part in. And don’t keep those observations to yourself. Submit your wildlife photos to iNaturalist (http://inaturalist.ca). We are particularly looking for observations of rare turtles for our Help the Turtles project on iNaturalist, but all observations are valuable.
You never know when an observation will help us to learn about a new location that a rare species inhabits.
Brandon Holden is a Turtle Field Technician at the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Brandon completed his degree with the University of Guelph and is currently in the process of earning his second diploma from Fleming College, focusing on ecosystem management, with a special interest in both species at risk and invasive species.