A rogue turtle found itself in need of rescue after being trapped on a frozen lake this past weekend.
The little red-eared slider was spotted in the middle of Heart Lake by a volunteer for the Brampton, Ont., based turtle conservation group the Heart Lake Turtle Troopers. The group has been actively patrolling the Heart Lake wetlands for turtles since 2021.
It is not clear how the turtle ended up in the middle of the lake - it may have left hibernation early due to mild weather and could not find its to the shore on its own.
Lori Leckie, the co-founder of the Turtle Troopers says that the turtle was watched for 2 days before making the decision to call for extra help.
"We were waiting to see if it was going to make its way to the shore." She recalls, "it didn’t, and we knew that it was either going to get scooped up by a predator or it would just freeze to death."
Heart Lake Turtle Troopers/Facebook (Provided)
They called the Brampton Fire and Emergency Services (BFES) non-emergency line and soon after 15 firefighters came to the rescue.
The BFES water team carefully tested the ice with a gauge to determine if it was safe to walk on. Once they got the all clear, the turtle was successfully brought to shore within 10 minutes.
To the volunteer group’s surprise, the turtle had been previously 'notched' by a biologist in a 2018 study and had been successfully living in the wetlands for over 5 years.
The red-eared slider turtle is not native to Ontario and the Turtle Troopers group believes that this particular turtle was dumped in the wetlands as a pet. Lori Leckie says that about 10 per cent of the turtle population in the Heart Lake wetlands are now red-eared sliders.
The species can be legally purchased from pet stores and may live for multiple decades - which can be a contributing factor in their presence in Ontario’s wetlands as many are dumped - something that the volunteer group is hoping to get banned.
After successfully being rescued, the turtle, a girl, made her way to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC) by two of their volunteer 'turtle taxis' for medical assessment. The OTCC does not usually look after invasive but as she was found in the wild, she will be checked for any underlying illnesses and if she gets the all clear - she will be sent to Little RES Q, a non- profit reptile rescue based in Pefferlaw, that specialises in the red-eared slider.
(Heart Lake Turtle Troopers/Provided)
The Turtle Troopers suggest that if anyone should find a turtle in a perilous situation, to call the OTCC as they have a network of organisations that are always ready to lend a helping hand - or flipper.