Snapping turtle

Snapping turtle Joe Crowley

Snapping Turtle

The snapping turtle is Canada’s largest freshwater and terrestrial turtle, and can be found most often in shallow waters, hiding under soft mud and leaf litter, although at one time they were a common sight crossing roads during the summer in search of nesting sites, food and mates.

The snapping turtle is listed as a species of special concern both federally and provincially. Threatened by hunting, road mortality and habitat loss, the snapping turtle is in decline in Ontario. Found primarily in the southern part of the province, snapping turtles are a legally hunted game species with an allowable take of up to two snapping turtles per person, per day. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) does not monitor the hunt.

Ontario Nature is deeply concerned that a species at risk is legally hunted in this province. In 2009, Ontario Nature members passed a resolution requesting that MNR remove the snapping turtle from the game list under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. MNR did not take action. In 2010, under the Environmental Bill of Rights, Ontario Nature formally requested a policy review of the hunting regulation. In February 2011, MNR rejected the policy review request stating that the hunt was sustainable.

However, Ontario Nature’s conservation staff question the sustainability of hunting snapping turtles. Snapping turtles have a delayed sexual maturity with reproduction beginning at 20 years of age; typically only seven in 10,000 eggs laid survive to adulthood. This species is especially vulnerable and any increase in adult mortality will have detrimental effects on a population.

Please submit your observations of snapping turtles to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas.

To learn more, please e-mail John Urquhart, Conservation Science Manager, at johnu@ontarionature.org.

 

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