Tracking turtles in Saskatchewan

By Dale Johnson Posted: May 28, 2015 6:00 a.m.

Kelsey Marchand (l), a first-year MSc student, and Alyssa Stulberg (r), entering her fourth year of BSc Biology at U of R, are tracking turtles.
Kelsey Marchand (l), a first-year MSc student, and Alyssa Stulberg (r), entering her fourth year of BSc Biology at U of R, are tracking turtles. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Marchand.

Some University of Regina biology students are trying to find out more about rare, western painted turtles found in Regina’s Wascana Park.

They’re using two methods in their research: high-technology and citizen sightings.

Radio transmitters have been put on the outside of the turtles’ shells.

“I hope to determine population size, location of nesting habitat, location of overwintering habitat, as well as habitats used throughout the summer months,” explains one of the researchers, Kelsey Marchand.

She says that most people are unaware there is a population of native turtles living in Regina.

Turtles at Wascana Park
The rare western painted turtles enjoying warm weather at Wascana Park. (Photo courtesy of Kelsey Marchand.)

Western painted turtles are the most northerly turtle species found in Canada. There are some in Wascana Park in Regina, but the species range
does not go much further north in Saskatchewan which could be a result of the long, cold winter that we experience.

“It’s important to keep track of this species because globally turtle populations are on the decline as a result of habitat fragmentation, road mortality, and poaching to name a few. The more we learn about these and other species of turtles, the better we can protect their habitat now and into the future,” she says.

Now here’s how you can help.

If you happen to see one of these rare turtles while visiting Wascana Park, Marchand asks that you report any sightings to

“If you see a turtle, you should take a look at the back of the shell, because the turtles we have caught already will have a small white number written on the back. Then you can send in your sighting and tell us where it was (GPS coordinates or nearest significant landmark), what it was doing (i.e. sunbathing, moving across land, swimming, nesting, etc.), when you saw it (date and time of day), and if possible a picture. The data that is submitted will go into our database and could lead to us learning some new locations that the turtles like to go,” Marchand says.

The research project is a joint effort of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, the University of Regina and Friends of Wascana Marsh.

You can find out more about the project when Marchand shares her research findings as part of the Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan Speaker Series at the annual Wings over Wascana Nature Festival on Saturday, May 30th at 2:30 p.m. at the Habitat Conservation Area at Assiniboine Ave E. and McDonald St.