Our heroic tale takes us back to a time when we were innocently hoping for a nice hot summer (amazingly enough our campers did swim at every opportunity throughout the season!). A time when school was slowly winding down and student’s attentions were focused elsewhere.
We start our (martial arts and New York sewer system free) story along the edge of a charming little body of water. It’s known to High Park Kingdom locals as The Grenadier Pond. The partially naturalized shoreline of the pond provides excellent habitat for a variety of wetland creatures including our story’s heroine, Mama Snapping Turtle.
There is a reason why this lovely Kingdom is known as High Park. Toronto’s watershed ravines are well know throughout the GTA Realm. High Park Kingdom is home to some of the best of these beautiful green spaces. One of the larger ravines in the Kingdom is where you’ll find Grenadier Pond (and here you thought we only had a Black Oak Savannah to show off!). These ravines and the ancient shoreline create hills the likes of which challenge even the most experienced outdoor enthusiasts and summer Shakespeare aficionados!
The Royal Court, and many loyal citizens, know just how steep the hills and ravines can be in this lovely Kingdom. So picture if you will our heroine, Mama Snapping Turtle on a quest … a quest to find the perfect spot to lay her dozens of tiny turtle eggs. This spot must be sunny, warm and sandy. Fortunately the High Park Kingdom is build upon nothing but sand, sand and more sand!
Every year the perilous trek up the hillside begins with a scramble across the pathway along the pond’s shore. This first challenge requires the ability to dodge joggers, cyclists and the odd curious hound (or at least be a rather conspicuous lump in the middle of the path so that others learn to go around!).
The next challenge comes when Mama Snapping Turtle, armed only with two sets of flipper-like legs (and granted some pretty serious claws), crawls steadily up the steep side of the ravine looking for that perfect sunny and sandy spot. The climb is arduous and can require great feats of strength in order to make it to the top.
Once Mama Turtle is atop High Park there comes the most dangerous challenge of all … the crossing of Colborne Lodge Drive (and the unfortunately fast drivers/cyclists who need to remember the speed limit is only 20 km/H! AND that a stop sign really does mean stop … even inside a park!). Once this final turtle hurdle is concurred it’s time to find that perfect sandy spot. When Mama Snapping Turtle finds the perfect place she often goes back year after year to lay her eggs in the same spot.
But this year …. (or Dun, Dun, Dunnnn)
By Royal Decree (we’re talking City Hall level Royalty here!) the High Park Kingdom is under construction. The repaving of all roads within the Kingdom is happening for the upcoming 2015 Pan Am Games. When Mama Snapping Turtle arrived at her usual sunny and sandy destination, just north of the tiny Hamlet of Compost Corner, she was turned away!
The kind-hearted but unknowing squires of roadwork construction kept sending Mama Snapping Turtle back down the hill and out of harms way. This, unfortunately, would not do for Mama Turtle! She had to find a sunny and sandy spot for her imminent brood.
Just then, as Mama Turtle was once again turned away from her ultimate destination, a fairy godmother jogged into view. Mama Turtle’s fairy godmother happened to be working on a PhD in Amphibian Studies (or something close to that … and yes it’s really true!) and was able to direct Mama Turtle to a new location at the south end of Kitchenland. This location turned out to be just outside the front door of the Children’s Teaching Kitchen, what many consider to be the heart of Kitchenland.
It was at this point that our Royal Staff brought over the visiting school group to investigate all the commotion. Mama Turtle was having such a long day that by then and without any fuss (and very little muss) she dug up a hole and started to lay at least 46 eggs!
It took Mama Turtle almost two hours to lay all those eggs and once finished, she patted sand back over the mound and proceeded on her way back down the hill (once again with a little help from her friends but this time it was welcome!).
After all that work Mama Turtle would then rely on nature to take care of her babies and keep them warm until it was time to hatch.
From that point on the Royal Staff and Citizens of Kitchenland had to be content with letting nature take it’s course for 60-90 days. Let’s just say … this was a tough wait!
In order to ensure the safety of the new Kitchenland residents a racoon proof security barrier was crafted. The ultimate crafting and inventive skills of the Royal Staff of High Park Kingdom are evident in the outstanding end results!
Waiting …. and Waiting ….. and Waiting ….
A summer full of fun and adventure for 4 to 14 year olds passed by with a watchful eye on Fort Turtle. Everyone was excited to see what might happen and when! The summer passed by and the Royal Staff and Citizens of Kitchenland and the High Park Kingdom started to worry … what if they didn’t hatch? What if they hatched on a weekend? Were our newest little residents O.K.?
Then one fateful morning, when hope was nearly lost, a young home-schooler from the weekly Tuesday programs found a wiggly, squiggly little wood chip. This little wood chip was teetering and tottering along the bumpy, wood chippy path to Colborne Lodge Drive. Another was found wandering it’s way along the path beside the Fedge (the Royal Food Hedge along the road portion of the Children’s Garden). What was happening with all these escapee wood chips? And since when could they walk with such determination?
A closer look at the wobbly little wood chip revealed four little turtle legs a pointy little head (with the best nostrils and nose you could ever hope to find!) and a REALLY long little tail. It was clearly not a wood chip but a tiny little snapping turtle.
Quickly everyone ran over to Fort Turtle to check out all the action! Low and behold a teeny tiny little head was poking out of a hole in the ground. This little head slowly but surely emerged with a shell, legs and a tail attached. One at a time and at a very determined rate, the little turtles pulled themselves out of the hole in the ground and aimed themselves southwards towards Lake Ontario and Grenadier Pond.
All of a sudden every little wood chip was a potential baby turtle. The loyal home-schoolers diligently searched the area for tiny trudging turtles and found many had made it out to the road and into the garden. The baby turtles were herded (gently picked up) and brought back to the Royal Turtle Transportation System (also known as bowls hastily grabbed from the Teaching Kitchen).
Slowly but surely the baby turtles emerged from the nest. There were 46 in all and they were taken back down to Grenadier Pond. So now you know who to blame for the snapping turtle population explosion next year.
This heroic effort of Mama Snapping Turtle’s happens every spring throughout Ontario and beyond. Healthy watersheds and wetlands are crucial for healthy turtles, frogs, fish, salamanders and toads along with all of the animals that depend upon them for food! Help out our wetland creatures by installing green roofs, keeping harsh chemicals from going down the drain and ensuring your car isn’t leaking fluids. Teeny tiny turtles depend upon us to keep their, and our, water clean and healthy!
Honestly … how can you not want to help an adorable little face like this!
Please take a moment to enjoy our turtle hatching gallery: