Species Profile

Northern Map Turtle

Scientific Name: Graptemys geographica
Taxonomy Group: Reptiles
COSEWIC Range: Ontario, Quebec
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2012
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: There have been no quantitative, long-term studies of this species in Canada and, therefore, there is limited evidence of recent declines, range contraction or local extirpation of the species. However, the species’ long-lived life history with delayed age of maturity and the potential threats to its habitat suggest that it is susceptible to population decline. Significant threats include direct mortality from collisions with motor boats and from commercial fisheries bycatch.  Loss and degradation of shoreline habitat is another threat because this wary turtle is readily disturbed by human activity and boating, and shoreline developments interfere with the species’ basking and nesting behaviour. Unnaturally high predation of nests by mammalian predators, especially raccoons, is another threat. If not ameliorated, these threats combined with the species’ life history will cause the species to become Threatened in Canada.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in May 2002. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2012.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2005-01-12

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

Go to advanced search

Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Northern Map Turtle

Northern Map Turtle Photo 1
Northern Map Turtle Photo 2

Top

Description

The Northern Map Turtle is a highly aquatic, wary turtle, so it is often difficult to get a good look at it. The carapace (shell on the turtle’s back) is olive to brownish in colour, with a net-like pattern of light yellow lines that fade as the turtle matures. When the species was first described, the markings were thought to resemble a geographical map, which gave rise to the turtle’s common and scientific names. The head, neck, and limbs are a dark olive green with longitudinal greenish-yellow stripes and a roughly triangular spot behind each eye. Females are much larger than males, often weighing five times as much. The female’s carapace may be more than 25 cm long, while the average carapace length for males is only 14 cm. Juveniles are similar to adults, but the shell is more round for the first one to two years of life.

Top

Distribution and Population

The Northern Map Turtle occurs throughout the northeastern United States. It reaches its northern limit in southern Ontario and southwestern Quebec, where it is associated with the Great Lakes Basin and the St. Lawrence River. It is not known whether population levels are increasing, decreasing, or stable because there are no programs monitoring the status of the Northern Map Turtle in Canada. Estimates of 15 to 35 turtles per kilometre of shoreline have been made along the Ottawa River, and for localized Quebec populations (Lac des Deux Montagnes and Norway Bay).

Top

Habitat

The Northern Map Turtle inhabits both lakes and rivers, showing a preference for slow moving currents, muddy bottoms, and abundant aquatic vegetation. These turtles need suitable basking sites (such as rocks and logs) and exposure to the sun for at least part of the day.

Top

Biology

The Northern Map Turtle is an extremely wary species, diving into the water from basking sites at the slightest provocation. Individuals rarely leave the water except during nesting. They are nocturnal (active at night) to slightly crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk), remaining asleep in the sunshine for most of the day. They feed primarily on mussels, although they will occasionally eat other things. Hibernation is a communal activity, with turtles congregating in deep water areas with a slow current. Mating occurs while turtles are still at the hibernating site (October to April). Sometime in June or July, females may move a considerable distance inland to lay their eggs in clutches of 10 to 16. The hatchlings emerge in late August or early September.

Top

Threats

The Northern Map Turtle’s distribution coincides with the most densely populated and industrialized areas of Ontario and Quebec. As a result, numerous factors threaten its survival. Loss of habitat and use of waterways for recreation are perhaps the greatest significant threats to this species. The control of water levels, particularly with dams, may adversely affect the turtles by submerging nesting sites and altering habitat. The diet of the Northern Map Turtle makes it vulnerable to accumulation of heavy metals and other toxins. Wildlife trade (for food or as pets) is an additional threat to this turtle, which resembles other highly desirable species.

Top

Protection

Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Northern Map Turtle is a “specially protected” species under Ontario’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which protects it from being hunted, trapped, held in captivity, or traded without a licence. The turtle has no legal status in Quebec, but its nests are protected from disturbance, destruction, or alteration by the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife; and the collection, keeping, and trade of individuals is prohibited by the Animals in Captivity Regulation.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

Top

Recovery Team

Contact Person for Recovery Planning

  • Québec: Unité de planification de la conservation - Service canadien de la faune - Chair/Contact -
     Send Email

Top

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

21 record(s) found.

Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Northern Map Turtle Graptemys geographica in Canada (2013-11-08)

    The Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) is highly aquatic. The carapace is olive to brown with a reticulate pattern of light yellow lines that fade as the turtle matures. When first described, the markings on its carapace were thought to resemble a contour map, which gave rise to the turtle’s common and scientific names. Adults show extreme sexual size dimorphism with females being much larger than males. There are no recognized subspecies, despite an extensive range, and this is the only Graptemys species to occur within Canada.
  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Northern Map Turtle Graptemys geographica in Canada (2002) (2002-05-01)

    The Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) is a sexually dimorphic, highly aquatic turtle. The carapace is olive to brownish in colour with a reticulate pattern of light yellow lines that fade as the turtle matures. When first described, the markings on its carapace were thought to resemble a geographical map, which gave rise to the turtle's common and scientific names.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Northern Map Turtle (2013-12-18)

    There have been no quantitative, long-term studies of this species in Canada and, therefore, there is limited evidence of recent declines, range contraction or local extirpation of the species. However, the species’ long-lived life history with delayed age of maturity and the potential threats to its habitat suggest that it is susceptible to population decline. Significant threats include direct mortality from collisions with motor boats and from commercial fisheries bycatch.  Loss and degradation of shoreline habitat is another threat because this wary turtle is readily disturbed by human activity and boating, and shoreline developments interfere with the species’ basking and nesting behaviour. Unnaturally high predation of nests by mammalian predators, especially raccoons, is another threat. If not ameliorated, these threats combined with the species’ life history will cause the species to become Threatened in Canada.
  • Response Statements - Northern Map Turtle (2004-04-21)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Georgian Bay Islands National Park of Canada (2016-11-22)

    Georgian Bay Islands National Park (GBINP) is located in southeastern Georgian Bay in the heart of Ontario’s cottage country. Georgian Bay is home to the world’s largest freshwater archipelago, the 30,000 Islands, and the park acts as a southern gateway into this area. Comprising 63 dispersed islands and shoals the total area of the park is 14 km2 from the Centennial Group in the south to McQuade Island 50 kilometres northward. Situated just 150 km from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), GBINP is within a half-day’s drive for millions of Canadians. Created in 1929 it is Canada’s smallest national park straddling two natural regions and forms a core protected area of the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. The park lies on the edge of the Canadian Shield and is home to both northern and southern plants and animals. The islands are renowned for the variety of reptiles and amphibians they support. The park also has significant cultural value, having been occupied continuously for over 5,500 years. Maintenance and restoration of ecological integrity is the first priority of national parks (Canada National Parks Act s.8(2)). Species at risk, their residences, and their habitat are therefore protected by existing national park regulations and management regimes. In addition, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) prohibitions protecting individuals and residences apply automatically when a species is listed, and all critical habitat in national parks and national historic sites must be legally protected within 180 days of being identified.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for La Mauricie National Park and National Historic Sites of La Mauricie and Western Quebec regions (2020-10-06)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for La Mauricie National Park and Canada's national historic sites (NHS) that are part of the Mauricie and Western Quebec Field Unit (MWQFU) applies to the land and waters within the boundaries of La Mauricie National Park (LMNP) and 13 NHSs in Quebec: Obadjiwan–Fort Témiscamingue; Forges-du-Saint-Maurice; Fort Chambly; Fort Lennox; Battle of the Châteauguay; Coteau-du-Lac; Carillon Barracks; Manoir Papineau; Louis-Joseph Papineau; Louis S. St-Laurent; Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site; Sir Wilfrid Laurier; and Sir George-Étienne Cartier. This plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA; section 47) for species requiring an action plan that regularly occur on these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in LMNP and on associated NHSs.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (2016-07-05)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the two sites: Point Pelee National Park of Canada (PPNP) and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (NNHS). The NNHS is being used as a term to collectively refer to two locations in the Niagara region that consist of three National Historic Sites: Fort George National Historic Site, Battlefield of Fort George National Historic Site, and Butler’s Barracks National Historic Sites of Canada. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at PPNP and at NNHS.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada (2021-10-07)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada applies to all federally owned lands and waters managed by Parks Canada in Rouge National Urban Park (RNUP), including Bead Hill National Historic Site. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the province of Ontario, the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle, and environmental non-government organizations as per section 48(1) of SARA. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur at this site. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at RNUP. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the 60-day public comment period on the proposed Multi-species Action Plan for Rouge National Urban Park of Canada has been extended to 90 days to provide sufficient time for feedback.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Thousand Islands National Park of Canada (2016-03-29)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Thousand Islands National Park of Canada is a Species At Risk Act action plan (SARA s.47) for four species: American Water-willow (Justicia americana), Butternut (Juglans cinerea), Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum), and Pugnose Shiner (Notropis anogenus). The plan also outlines measures to monitor and manage 30 other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in the park. This plan applies only to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Thousand Islands National Park of Canada.

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Northern Map Turtle (Graptemys geographica) in Canada (2019-05-16)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Northern Map Turtle and has prepared this management plan, as per section 65 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the governments of Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) and Quebec (Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs) as per section 66(1) of SARA.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004-04-21)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 139, number 2, 2005) (2005-01-12)

    Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report – 2012-2013 (2013-09-24)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (October, 2012 to September 2013) from November 25 to November 30, 2012 and from April 28 to May 3, 2013. During the current reporting period, COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 73 wildlife species. The wildlife species assessment results for the 2012-2013 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 0 Extirpated: 2 Endangered: 28 Threatened: 19 Special Concern: 19 Data Deficient: 4 Not at Risk: 1 Total: 73 Of the 73 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 50 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#20), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2006-05-25)

    The work involves the monitoring of Northern Map Turtle, Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle, Eastern Fox Snake, Queen Snake and Butler's Garter Snake. Specimens to be live captured, examined, and released in situ. Specimens not to be injured, killed or removed.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#PP-2009-3592), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2009-05-25)

    The five objectives of this study are: 1. to actively locate turtle nests within Point Pelee National Park 2. to effectively protect all turtle nests located, with priority given to Species at Risk 3. to opportunistically mark and recapture all turtle species 4. to ensure all protected turtle nests in PPNP are checked daily once hatching may be expected to occur and release all turtle hatchlings in suitable locations 5. to record the number of hatchlings and report the results of the PPNP turtle nest protection program
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SARA-OR-2010-0151), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2010-06-22)

    This survey represents a first step in a comprehensive species at risk study for the CRL Site. The results will provide empirical data regarding the presence and location of any species at risk within the boundaries of the CRL property. The survey results will provide information which will be useful in developing management strategies. The proposed survey is anticipated to provide information on: presence or absence of various species at risk turtles; habitat selection and range of turtle species; provide details on age, sex and health of individual specimens. Surveyors will adhere to the established site protocols with respect to observational, capture and release methodologies. No animals will be injured, killed or removed. Nests and eggs will be left intact and undisturbed.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004-03-03)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update December 2, 2021
Date modified: