Conservation Initiatives 

All of the programs at OTCC constitute conservation. Click on a box below to learn more about each program.

1. The Hospital

We admitted 1514 turtles in 2021 and 1885 turtles in 2022 for treatment, rehabilitation and release.

2.  The Hatchling Program

Eggs retrieved from the females admitted to the hospital are incubated, hatched and released to their mother’s wetland (over 4,000 incubated in 2020).

3.  Field Studies

We monitor and learn from our Hatchling program, monitor populations at the field site, and produce reports that inform management strategies.

4.  Education

Vital to all areas of our programs, from the general public to veterinarians. Conservation depends on education to move forward.

We release over 2,000 turtles each year!  This has a definite positive impact on turtle populations.

Our Hospital and Hatchling Program help reverse some of the effects of road mortality on turtle populations. In time, ecopassages will play a big part too – more and more are being implemented to allow safe passage across the roads. Our field studies help us to learn how best to maximize “success” of our Head-starting program, and helps to inform other programs globally. Education leads to stewardship, which greatly expands our sphere of influence, and moves conservation forward by large leaps. All of our programs work in concert to have an even greater impact.

We also aid in conservation initiatives beyond our walls!

In 2016, we supported the then-Minister of Natural Resources (Kathryn McGarry, pictured below, right, with Dr. Sue Carstairs), in her quest to have the snapping turtle hunt banned.  Sound science, a motivated Minister, and huge public support, accomplished this. See: The Road to Extinction

In 2011, we played a role in the Snapping Turtle Report, used as a reference by the MNRF – we tested snapping turtles for PCBs and found their levels to be high. This added data to deter their consumption.

Our field studies are helping to show that ‘head-starting’ is a viable conservation strategy for freshwater turtles See: Population reinforcement accelerates subadult recruitment rates in an endangered freshwater turtle

Our collaborations and partnerships enable us to reach further and have a larger conservation impact.  We partner with colleges, universities, and schools – taking students as placements, and mentoring them through projects that are mutually beneficial.  We partner with faculty at these institutions also.  Their various specialties allow us to combine our skills to build strong conservation projects.  We partner with other charities, organizations, and businesses across the province; from rehabilitation centres to zoos, to veterinary clinics and conservation organizations. We partner with road ecologists, road ecology organizations, with land trusts and land owners. We partner with Ontario Parks, Parks Canada, and the Ontario MNRF in many different areas. We participate and present at conferences across North America, learning as well as  sharing our knowledge; from veterinary conferences, to wildlife rehabilitation conferences, herpetological conferences, turtle conservation conferences, and road ecology conferences.

 Together we’re making a difference


Aural Abscesses in Wild Midland Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) Admitted to a Wildlife Hospital in Ontario, Canada, 2011–20
By Sue J. Carstairs, Christopher J. Dutton, Marc Dupuis-Desormeaux
Published in Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 2022
To view the document, click here

Population-level effects of wildlife rehabilitation and release vary with life-history strategy
By James E. Paterson, Sue Carstairs, Christina M. Davy
Published in Journal for Nature Conservation, 2021
To view the document, click here

High prevalence of subclinical frog virus 3 infection in freshwater turtles of Ontario, Canada
By Sue Jacqueline Carstairs, Christopher J. Kyle, and Sibelle Torres Vilaça
Published in Virology, 2020
To view the document, click here

Road avoidance and its energetic consequences for reptiles
by James E. Paterson, James Baxter‐Gilbert, Frederic Beaudry, Sue Carstairs, Patricia Chow‐Fraser, Christopher B. Edge, Andrew M. Lentini, Jacqueline D. Litzgus, Chantel E. Markle, Kassie McKeown, Jennifer A. Moore, Jeanine M. Refsnider, Julia L. Riley, Jeremy D. Rouse, David C. Seburn, J. Ryan Zimmerling, and Christina M. Davy
Published in Ecology and Evolution – Wiley, 2019
To view the document, click here.

Evidence for low prevalence of ranaviruses in Ontario, Canada’s freshwater turtle population
by Sue J. Carstairs
Published in PeerJ, 2019
To view the document, click here.

Population reinforcement accelerates subadult recruitment rates in an endangered freshwater turtle
by Sue Carstairs, James Paterson, Kirsta Jager, Donnell Gasbarrini, Amy Mui and Christina Davy
Published in Animal Conservation, 2019
To view the document, click here.

Revisiting the hypothesis of sex-biased turtle road mortality
By Sue Carstairs, Marc Dupuis-Desormeaux, and Christina M. Davy
Published in Canadian Field Naturalist, 2018
To view the document, click here

A question of scale: Replication and the effective evaluation of conservation interventions
By Amanda M. Bennett, Jessica Steiner, Sue Carstairs, Andrea Gielens, and Christina M. Davy
Published in FACETS Science Journal, 2017
To view the document, click here

The Turtle Head Immobilization System (THIS): A Tool for Faster and Safer Handling and Processing of Aggressive Turtle Species
By Eric C. Munscher, Brian P. Butterfield, Sue Carstairs, Marc Dupuis-Désormeaux, Jessica Munscher, Wayne Osborne, and Brian Hauge
Published in IRCF Reptiles and Amphibians Conservation and Natural History, 2015
To view the document, click here