Patrick Grace points to a small bump on a log like a proud father. “That could be one of my little babies there on that log,” he says.

It’s a turtle.

On Bob’s Lake in Eastern Ontario, Patrick Grace is known as the turtle man.

It started around 8 years ago when the retired computer specialist and his wife noticed turtles digging holes in their yard and laying eggs. With the help of an outreach program at the Toronto Zoo he identified them as northern map turtles.

He also learned that, between vehicles on the road and marauding raccoons, nesting turtles like these often fight a losing battle.

He decided to learn how best to protect the nests. If they’re on his property he covers them with chicken wire and tent pegs to keep the raccoons at bay.

Some turtles will nest on the gravel road where it’s easier to dig. He’ll dutifully dig them up again and transfer the eggs to the little turtle reserve his yard has become.

When the eggs hatch he releases the tiny newborns into the lake.

“I’ve fostered 201 northern map turtles and 21 painted turtles,” he beams.

Grace has now become the local expert on turtles. He has put up some turtle traffic signs. He gives talks at local conservation meetings. And he got the local cottage association to foot the bill for more turtle protection kits. “I’m the turtle guy on the lake here, pretty well,” he concedes.

He’ll also happily talk turtles with anyone who will listen. Just ask bemused neighbour, Jean Cooke. “He won’t stop,” she laughs. “Then you’ve got to get his head back in the shell.”

“They’re getting used to it,” Grace says of his neighbours. “Some of them, I think I was in the way for a while. But they’re getting used to me looking for turtles and slowing them down.”

The good news is that Bob’s Lake has one of the healthiest populations of northern map turtles in the area. Grace is especially gratified when he sees small, young turtles sunning themselves. Many lakes only have older turtle populations. (Map turtles can live for 80 years.)

Looking after his “babies” is all in a day’s work for the turtle man. “No children of my own,” he laughs. “So I have turtles.”