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The Eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtle

Turtles are one of the earth's most important species. Not only are they interesting creatures to observe but they act as a barometer or signal letting us know that the disappearance of turtles and small amphibians is a possible early sign of the trouble in our ecosystem. More and more species of turtles and other amphibians such as frogs are becoming extinct, while no one knows why.

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The Eastern Spiny Soft Shell turtle has a flat, almost circular upper shell that resembles a pancake and is often covered with leathery skin. Females have a green/tan camouflage pattern while males have dark spots. The bottom shell is pliable and small with usually a yellowish-cream colour. They have large webbed feet, a long neck, distinctive snorkel like snout and their smooth green skin is covered with yellow and black dots, lines and flecks. Soft Shell turtles are found in Southern Ontario and in South Western Quebec, in Lake Erie, and in the Ottawa, St. Lawrence, and Richelieu Rivers. They live in areas of sand and mud and in our area are most commonly found along the Thames River.

The Eastern Spiny Soft shell turtle is at risk mostly because of the soft shell it has which makes it vulnerable to birds and small mammals that prey upon it. Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) representatives report that skunks have been known to drag turtles out of their hiding spots or homes by the tail and eat them. They are also marketed for human consumption in vast numbers because it is thought by many people that these turtles are a threat to game species of fish, even though this is not true. Because of the turtle's pharangeal gill slits and cloaca, a chemical used to survey and kill unwanted fish called Rotenone is easily absorbed into their bodies.

To help the Soft Shell turtle, some places have made laws that limit catching and catch seasons as well as size limitations. Although the Spi…

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