Reptile and amphibian recovery and education (R.A.R.E)

Thousand Islands National Park

turtle eggs in the soil
A vulnerable turtle nest.

Thousand Islands National Park is home to a unique mixture of reptile and amphibian species, ten of which are at risk. To ensure these amazing species will survive for generations to come, the park has created the R.A.R.E. project. This project involves two key components: species recovery and public education.

Species recovery

R.A.R.E. recovery programs include:

  • Turtle incubation program: We are collecting turtle eggs in the national park that are vulnerable to nest predation and roadkill. Eggs from these populations are incubated on site, and the baby turtles are released back into the wild after they hatch, to ensure a new generation survives. Check out our social media feeds (Facebook and Twitter) for updates on the growth of these baby turtles!

Please note that the park is prohibited from accepting donations of turtle eggs from the public, and that collecting turtle eggs without a permit is against the law.

  • Artificial turtle nest creation: We are creating artificial turtle nesting sites, which provide a safe place for turtles to lay their eggs, away from roads and other hazards. 
  • Commercial fishing by-catch study: We are working with partners from universities and the local fishing industry, to learn best practices for keeping turtles safe in the waters around the Thousand Islands. 

Public education

R.A.R.E. education programs include:

Park staff at an outreach education event, with turtle models
Visit our outreach table at an event near you.
  • Gray Ratsnake Research: Considered a threatened species at risk, the Gray Ratsnake is being studied by Thousand Islands National Park using radio telemetry. In spring 2022, five Gray Ratsnakes had radio transmitters implanted with support of local vets and science staff. These snakes were released back into the wild and are located weekly by park staff using radio telemetry equipment. An antenna picks up the radio signals and sends it to a receiver that beeps louder when the snake is close. Tracking these snakes will help Thousand Islands National Park better conserve the species by understanding their ranges, movement patterns, behaviors and by locating their hibernation site. This important work will allow Gray Ratsnakes to be better monitored and further protected. 
  • Turtle nest box program: Many turtles lay their eggs on private property. If you have a turtle nest on your property and you would like to protect it, let us know! We are lending out turtle nest boxes to local landowners. These boxes are hammered into the ground, protecting the nest from predators, so the baby turtles can hatch safely. For more information please contact us
  • Species at risk outreach table: Park staff are coming to an event near you with a fun and educational Species at Risk booth! To inquire about us visiting your event, please contact us.
  • Social media: Check out our feeds (Facebook and Twitter) for frequent R.A.R.E. project updates, and cool facts about Species at Risk.
  • Publications:
    • The Gray Ratsnake: A Landowner’s Guide to Helping it Recover
      Learn how to identify and protect this species at risk in your own backyard! Thank you to the Leeds-Grenville Stewardship Council for their contributions to this important document. Download your free copy.
    • Reptiles and Amphibians of the Thousand Islands 
      A colourful, comprehensive guide to identifying the reptiles and amphibians who call the Thousand Islands their home. Contact us for a free copy.

We would like to thank our many partners who have made the R.A.R.E. project possible:

  • Algonquin to Adirondack Collaborative
  • Eastern Ontario Model Forest
  • Frontenac Arch Biosphere Network
  • Leeds-Grenville Stewardship Council
  • L&G Turtles
  • Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
  • Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Department of the Environment
  • Nature Conservancy of Canada
  • Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre
  • The Aquatarium
  • Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust
  • Toronto Zoo
  • Turtles Kingston

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