Submitted by Turtle Guardians

Remains of county’s oldest known turtle found

By Vivian Collings

The Turtle Guardians recently announced a tragic end to Amazing Grace’s story.

Remains of a large snapping turtle with distinguishing features were found at the Koshlong Lake dam, close to 15 kilometres away from her traditional grounds.

“We are certain that these are of our beloved friend, as the ocular bones are a match for the unusual form of her eyes, and her suture lines (connections between bone plates) are a match to Grace’s unique carapace,” said Turtle Guardians founder Leora Berman in a statement.

Berman said because of the nature of her remains and where they were found, human intervention likely caused the death of the 125+ year old turtle.

“They were bleached white with no flesh remaining, but all in one location, meaning that she had died months before she was found, but obviously not through predation,” Berman said. 

The search for Grace began in 2022 after a portion of the wetland she frequented off County Road 1 in Haliburton was filled.

Berman explained that it’s unheard of for turtles to travel such distances from her original location, especially within the time she went missing.

“Territories are like their languages, and changing territorial boundaries means learning a new language which tends to takes time, therefore the only logical explanation is that she was moved to that location/translocated,” Berman said.

There are a few reasons why Grace likely didn’t survive last winter in a new area, all stemming from her displacement.

“She was found in an open lake that is not a known choice for snapping turtles to overwinter in, and therefore the conditions in the lake may not have allowed her to survive the winter. Also displaced turtles can become stressed which can lead to sickness. So while it is highly doubtful she was predated, nor is it likely she “suddenly died of old age”, the exact cause is a mystery, but biologically and behaviourally her passing relates to her being displaced,” Berman said.

The Turtle Guardians mourn this loss with the community, as it signifies deeper issues within Haliburton County.

“It is extremely sad and a huge loss for this community as she was an icon, a loss for our lakes and wildlife because of her role, a loss for future generations of turtles as elders are essential to continue lineages, a loss for science because she was so unique, and also for the world who watched her too,” Berman said.

Berman said the responsibility of protecting species like Grace fall in the hands of municipal governments.

Those hoping to see a change can volunteer with local conservation organizations and sign the petition,

“I think the take away is a lot of learning; that what we think is disposable is actually invaluable to our health and future, what we think is recognized and protected may actually slip through the cracks, and that it is not hard to find a balance between people and wildlife, protection and development, but this to happen we need to pay attention and speak out, and for this council to uphold their responsibilities,” Berman said.