A biological treasure, the Western Painted Turtle has delighted Sunshine Coast residents for generations. Yet this stunningly beautiful species, BC’s only native freshwater turtle, is declining and faces multiple significant threats.  Our Pacific Coast population is federally endangered and provincially red-listed. The Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project has been working to help Painted Turtles for the past 10 years, through the following activities: 

Research, Surveys and Monitoring

  • Identifying Turtle Lakes: Conducting surveys to identify turtle-occupied water bodies
  • Mapping Habitat: Assessing and mapping turtle habitat at occupied lakes
  • Assessing Populations: Live trapping surveys to evaluate numbers of turtles, and their age and sex structure in each lake and to monitor lakes through time to assess whether our threat mitigation and habitat stewardship efforts are leading to population recovery
  • Monitoring Nesting: Identifying turtle nests and nesting habitat and tracking the success of turtle nests by monitoring emergence of tiny hatchling turtles each spring
  • Assessing Movement: Using mark-recapture and radio telemetry to track movement patterns within and between water bodies
  • Identifying Overwintering Sites: Radio-telemetry to identify turtle hibernation sites and evaluate overwintering habitat selection
  • Genetic Studies: Collecting samples for province-wide study by Masters Student Evelyn Jensen which showed that our Sunshine Coast turtles represent a unique genetic cluster
  • Evaluating Threats: Assessing threats posed to turtles by road mortality, habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, human disturbance, and predators

Habitat Enhancement

  • Building Nesting Beaches: Creating new nesting beaches to increase suitable nesting habitat and reduce road mortality by intercepting nest-seeking female turtles before they enter roads
  • Increasing Basking Habitat: Installing floating logs for turtles and other wildlife
  • Improving Shoreline Habitat: Removing invasive weeds and planting native species to naturalize shorelines, improving water quality, and increase habitat value for turtles and other fish and wildlife
  • Working with the SCRD: Working with the Sunshine Coast Regional District to protect and improve habitat for turtles in Katherine Lake and Klein Lake Parks
  • Working with Landowners: Working with landowners to protect and improve turtle habitat on private property

Threat Mitigation

  • Turtle Crossing Signs: Identifying sites of high road mortality and installing road crossing signs to warn motorists
  • Protecting Nests: Using exclosures to protect vulnerable nests from predators.
  • Relocating Nests: Moving nests laid in dangerous locations to safer spots nearby
  • Head-starting: Participating in a head-starting pilot program and then releasing baby turtles back into their native lakes
  • Rescuing Injured Turtles: Taking injured turtles to Gibsons Wildlife Rehab Centre for some TLC from Clint and Irene
  • Working with the Recovery Team: Working on the development and implementation of a Recovery Strategy as members of the Western Painted Turtle Recovery Team and the WPT Working Group

Community Engagement

  • Outreach: Introducing community members to the wonderful world of turtles, through presentations, kids programs, and guided walks
  • Stewardship Materials: Publishing stewardship guides and brochures to provide information about how community members can help turtles, and working with OtterBeGood Productions on the award-winning video “People Love Turtles