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Observing Nova Scotia Turtles


Most often turtles are discovered accidentally, sometimes in unusual places (especially Wood Turtles, which seem to get around). Painted turtles will be seen basking on logs in ponds on sunny days. Snapping turtles are most often seen in June and early July when they come ashore to dig nests. Wood Turtles may be seen in hayfields, meadows and woodland along a few slow moving rivers and streams - the St. Mary's and Kennetcook Rivers, for example.


It may seem harmless to keep a turtle as a pet for a while, but this is not a good idea. Two of the province's four turtle species are already at risk in Nova Scotia. It is likely that removal of turtles by people is part of the reason, for Wood Turtles. Limit your observations to turtles in their natural habitat. If you want a close view, examine the turtle where you find it and release it in the same place. This will help us all enjoy our wildlife, now and forever.


One very bad practice is to drill a hole in a turtle's shell and tie it to a dock, to keep as a pet. Turtles breathe air; eventually they become tangled below the surface and drown.


By the way, male Wood Turtles have a concave or "dished-in" plastron, while female Wood Turtles' plastrons are flat. The secret to sexing most turtles is to look for the vent. In males, it is aft of the back edge of the shell. In females, it is forward of the back edge of the shell or even within it.


"Turtle Watch" is a group of concerned scientists and naturalists. They can assist with returning a Wood Turtle or Blanding's Turtle to the wild, and would like to receive information about sightings of Wood Turtles, and Blanding's Turtles if outside Kejimkujik National Park. Contact them through the museum by e-mail.


Stranded or entangled marine turtles should be reported to any nearby wildlife or marine conservation officer, for possible release and documentation. There is a Nova Scotia Stranding Network and the museum is a member. Contact our zoologist for more info, or call 1-800-565-1633 to report a stranded sea turtle.

Fresh Water and Land Turtles

Eastern Painted Turtle

Wood Turtle

Common Snapping Turtle

Blanding's Turtle


Sea Turtles

Atlantic Leatherback Turtle

Atlantic Ridley Turtle

Atlantic Loggerhead Turtle


Turtle Information

Observing Nova Scotia Turtles