Well, here we are again, still talking about hunting snapping turtles, despite all the evidence. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is proposing a new policy to limit yet continue the hunting of snapping turtles. This compromise response to the widespread, scientifically supported call to end the hunt is simply not appropriate. Here’s why:
1. Snapping turtle is a species at risk in Ontario. How can we justify having an allowable hunt for a species that is on the road to extinction? In fact, all but one of Ontario’s turtle species are at risk.
2. Turtles are the most threatened taxa globally. Snapping turtle was just listed by CITES (Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species, an international agreement among governments), recognizing the pressure that harvest and trade have on this species.
3. The science is clear: turtle populations cannot sustain even small increases in adult mortality. The loss of adults and older juveniles is especially harmful for turtle populations. Evidence from Ontario-based snapping turtle studies show that the removal of adults will cause a population decline, and even after a few decades the population still may not recover.
4. Snapping turtles already face too many threats. The main pressures are habitat loss and road mortality. Other threats include boat mortality, fishing by-catch, mortality from dredging and construction, invasive species, persecution, illegal collection, exposure to toxic contaminants and more. Hunting adds to the cumulative impact of all these hazards. It’s like kicking someone when they are down.
5. The hunt contradicts proposed management objectives which aim to ensure sustainable populations. The hunt is just not sustainable. No way around it. It is in direct conflict with the management objectives of both the proposed provincial policy, which is “sustainable populations,” and the federal management plan which is to sustain or increase populations across the country. So why would the government still allow it?
Ontario is one of only two provinces in Canada that still allows the hunt. (Saskatchewan is the other). It’s absurd and downright embarrassing!
Help us finally get this species off the harvest list by sending a message to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kathryn McGarry, and letting her know that the snapping turtle is a species at risk that cannot sustain any amount of hunting. It should be protected!
Tanya Pulfer is Ontario Nature’s Conservation Science Manager.