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Reptiles
A smooth green snake, Opheodrys vernalis, hatching from its egg.
A smooth green snake, Opheodrys vernalis, hatching from its egg.

Plenty of Progeny
Turtles breed in May and June. Turtles and some snakes, such as the milk snake, the ringneck snake and the green snake, dig nests in which they lay their eggs. These animals are therefore oviparous. Others, such as the common garter snake, the redbelly snake and the northern water snake, are ovoviviparous, which means the eggs hatch inside the mother's body, who then gives birth to live young, 20 to 40 at a time! Reptiles do not care for their offspring once they have laid the eggs or have given birth.

 

Turtles Are Healthy ... in Rural Areas

Painted turtle, Chrysemys picta.
Painted turtle,
Chrysemys picta
.

Eleven species of native reptiles (comprising six species of snakes and five species of turtles) were found along the Rideau River during both the Project and previous fieldwork by Mike Rankin and Francis Cook, research associates with the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Researchers were particularly pleased to find two new localities for musk turtles, which are one of the rarest turtles in the River. Our knowledge of the distribution of this species has expanded with musk turtles newly found at Burritts Rapids and Barnes Island!

Northern water snake, Nerodia sipedon.  
Northern water snake,
Nerodia sipedon.
 
 

In general, reptile populations appear healthy in those portions of the Rideau River that pass through rural areas. On the other hand, Rankin and Cook are worried about the possible decline of turtle populations in urban areas, particularly near Manotick and downtown Ottawa.

Basking and nesting sites are becoming more and more scarce because of the construction of artificial riverbanks, which often accompanies residential development.


Common garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis.
Common garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis.
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 Reptiles
Bullet.
Arrow.
 Don't Overlook...
Arrow.
Arrow.
Arrow.
Arrow.


 Meet the Relatives!
Arrow.
Arrow.


Red-eared slider, Trachemys scripta elegans.
Red-eared slider, Trachemys scripta elegans.

Tankfuls of Exotic Turtles
Regrettably, red-eared sliders occasionally are found in the Rideau River. They are an exotic species, inappropriately released by misguided pet owners. Sliders are probably able to survive the winter in the Rideau River, but they are unlikely to reproduce in this area. The natural range of the species is further south, in areas with much longer summers. In the Rideau River area, hatching may not be possible before winter freeze-up.

 

A Project of the Canadian Museum of Nature
  
 Images: Canadian Museum of Nature